When people experience a loss, they feel the grief of it physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Although sorrow and grief are things we attempt to avoid, it is imperative that we understand the importance of grieving in light of the wisdom and comfort God has given us in His Word.
It is unfortunate that much of the world’s philosophy surrounding the grieving process has been accepted by Christians, resulting in hopelessness. Howard A. Eyrich summarizes a secular view of the grief process in his book, Grief: Learning to Live with Loss known as the Kübler-Ross “Stages of Grief” theory, in which grief progresses through five definable stages; denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The danger of believing this is the “normal” grief process is that it does not use biblical truth to define a right and wrong way to grieve. It also indicates that grief takes place by steps and stages. Some might experience these stages, but experiencing each stage in order is not necessary to grieve properly. Grief is expressed by people, not defined by a process. A person’s intimate relationship with God is more of a determining factor to the grief process than is a progression through stages.
Some Christians believe that because of their faith in God, they should not grieve, or that grieving displays a lack of trust in God. Many times, a person may feel like they need to be strong to exemplify a godly testimony. This faulty way of thinking carries its own set of dangers leading to resentment, bitterness, and lack of compassion. But sorrow in and of itself is not sinful. Jesus grieved, and He was described as the man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3).
There are biblical and unbiblical responses to grief, and a variety of emotions is to be expected. Grief is very personal, and people may handle it differently. We may feel overwhelmed with lamentable sorrow and turmoil when someone we love dearly has died. That separation leaves many feeling hollowed out and empty inside. Normal everyday functions seem senseless and overwhelming. Our emotional responses can be intense and erratic at times. All of these things are natural because God’s creation bears His image, including emotions, and everything He has made is good.
By faith, Jeremiah turned from his sorrow to look to the Lord saying, “Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall” (Jeremiah 3:19). Those experiencing loss can certainly identify. Like Jeremiah, their misery is magnified until they turn to the One in whom their hope lies. Jeremiah brings God’s unconditional love to light, and pivots his thinking to recall to his mind the nature of God. He puts his despair aside to focus on four characteristics of God’s love:
It is unconditional. “It is of the Lord’s mercies.”
It is saving love. “We are not consumed.”
It is endless love. “His compassions fail not.”
It is a faithful and fresh love. “They are new every morning.”
We need to remember that our hope comes from a never-changing, faithful God, rather than our ever-changing circumstances. Though the grieving seems long, we can be encouraged by God’s inexhaustible supply of love, mercy, and grace. Let these thoughts cause us to exclaim as Jeremiah did, Great is Thy faithfulness! (v. 23)
God does not set a specific timeline for grief. There will always be moments of grief, but these should not consume us to the point that we live in a constant state of misery. Believers should grieve with hope because of the knowledge of a living, loving Heavenly Father. Here are a few reasons why believers grieve differently:
- Believers acknowledge the sovereignty of God. Everything that happens in our lives passes through God’s hands. He is the giver and taker of life. His plans and ways are best (Jeremiah 29:11). His sovereignty provides hope and meaning to loss. Apart from His sovereignty, death is meaningless, and there is no hope for eternal life. Only pain and emptiness—and ways to escape or numb that pain—remain. The only true hope is in God, who is in control of all things (Lamentations 3:37-38).
- Believers acknowledge the goodness of God. God is holy and righteous. He is full of love and truth and never acts outside of His nature. He is reliable and above reproach. He uses every person, event, and circumstance in our lives to conform us into the image of His Son (2 Corinthians 3:18). Because God is good, He enters man’s world of grief as no one else can. He sent His Son to experience sorrow and grief, which proved His compassion. He was touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15).
- Believers acknowledge the wisdom of God. Man’s wisdom is foolishness in comparison to God’s wisdom. His thoughts and His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). We must not rely on our own wisdom to navigate through grief, but rather seek the wisdom of God (Proverbs 3:5-6). He knows the outcome, and He directs His children through grief in the way that is best for them (Psalms 23:4).
- Believers acknowledge the comfort of God. How comforting it is to know that God is omniscient and His compassion for His children is unlimited! It exceeds that which we seek (Ephesians 3:20). God comforts through His Word, the Holy Spirit, fellow believers, and prayer, but He Himself will always be the greatest comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
If you are in a season of grief right now, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. There is nothing too hard for the Lord, even though it may feel as though the grief will never end. God will meet your needs. There is no need to fret over the duration of your grief, in spite of what others may say. You serve a loving God who offers you hope, even if you feel hopeless at times. You can have peace in the midst of your pain. Keep your mind focused on truth: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD forever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.” (Isaiah 26:3-4).