The Reality of Grief
Grief is “a life-shaking sorrow over loss. Grief tears life to shreds; it shakes one from top to bottom. It pulls him loose; he comes apart at the seams. Grief is truly nothing less than a life-shattering loss.” You may know this experience all too well. I remember its first intrusion into my life when I was a teenager and my mother died. Nothing could ever be quite as it had been before.
You do not have to live long as a believer to discover that faith does not insulate us from grief and the fear of it. Paul wrote about the near-death experience of his friend Epaphroditus: “Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (Philippians 2:27). The thought of losing Epaphroditus broke Paul’s heart. He understood that death was not the end, but he also recognized that in experiencing loss, or even in the prospect of that, there is true sorrow.
Grief is hard because something has been lost, and certain joys are now irretrievably gone. But we also know that grief is a reality to which Scripture plainly speaks—a reality that will one day be redeemed by a far greater joy. And we know that grief is a reality with which our Savior is personally acquainted. As Jesus stood at the grave of His friend Lazarus, He—the second Person of the Trinity—grieved with those who had gathered there. Though He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He still wept because He was sincerely sad. The mystery in this scene is that Jesus so identified with our humanity that He shed genuine tears at the loss of His beloved friend.
Although the Bible introduces us to the reality of Christ’s victory over death and the grave, it doesn’t call us to some kind of glossy, heartless triumphalism. Rather, as Alec Motyer writes, “tears are proper for believers—indeed they should be all the more copious, for Christians are more sensitively aware of every emotion, whether of joy or sorrow, than those who have known nothing of the softening and enlivening grace of God.”
The fact that our loved ones who died in Christ are now with Him lightens but does not remove the anguish of loss and loneliness. We continue to long for the day when such pain will have ceased. Until that day comes, we can find comfort in knowing that Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) as we look to Him as our example, as we see that He is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), and as we look to Him for our eternity. Knowing this is what enables grief and hope to coexist in our hearts.
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life
1“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;1 believe also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?2 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4And you know the way to where I am going.”3 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.4 From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
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