“Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.” Lamentations 3:32
God is Always Faithful
Grief comes in a variety of ways: death, loss of a marriage, loss of a job, loss of a friendship, change in political climate, and the list goes on. Regardless of the cause, the results can be the same—a loss of hope that manifests itself in a tangled mess of emotions.
In my life, grief has been both a compassionate and a cruel teacher. Let me explain this statement by sharing with you my story. In 2003 a tragedy hit my family that spiritually put me in despair for years. My 24-year-old daughter, mother of my second grandchild, let go of the last drop of hope she had and took her own life, leaving the care of her daughter to my husband and myself. One question haunted me: Why would God use something so tragic as suicide and leaving a toddler an orphan as part of His perfect plan for me? My days were filled with doing what needed to be done and the joy of a toddler running around escaped me. The joy of watching her grow in her trust of others had been masked by my lack of hope. Like my daughter, I had lost hope. I could feel nothing but bitterness, anger, discontentment, fear of the future and resentment, not towards the world or my circumstances but towards God. I was not practicing Philippians 4:8. There was nothing in my thoughts that was praiseworthy, only blame. Finally, God used my circumstances to humble me. I asked God to forgive my sins of lack of trust in God’s plan and the accompanying anger and resentment I had towards God because my plans had been changed. The good shepherd welcomed me back into the fold and through prayer and reading the Word, my lost hope was once again securely anchored in Christ (Hebrews 6:19). Along with that, my inexpressible joy for the Lord returned.
God, in His wisdom, used the next four years to teach me more about who He was and how I could choose to trust in the promises of God regardless of my circumstances. In 2009, my husband suddenly died from aortic heart valve stenosis. Another death! Praise God for His compassion and grace during this time. Did I suffer great sorrow? Yes. Was I fearful? Yes. But through it all, I clung closely to Ephesians 3:20 that promised me God was able to do more than I could ask or imagine, and He would get me through this season of grief as I embraced hope and joy with His strength.
What Is Hope?
Unlike worldly hope, which can only be an uncertain desire, biblical hope not only desires something good for the future, it is confident and expects that it will happen. As believers, our hope brings us full assurance that our lives are in God’s hands. Even in the most difficult of trials, hope, according to 1 Corinthians 10:13, assures us that God will provide a way of escape so that we can stand up under the trial. Hope keeps us going, moving forward, guiding us on the path God has for us with His strength. Without biblical hope believers would be like fish out of water, struggling for the life-giving water just off the shore. With hope I could look to the future and not be fearful. Romans 8:38-39 tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and Matthew reminds us in chapter 6 of his book that the Father cares for and feeds the birds of the air and we are much more valuable than them. The God of Hope cares for us deeply. Hope in God’s promises kept me going in the difficult days and brought me out to His glorious light.
The Importance of Joy
Joy, when used in the biblical sense, is described as a feeling of inner gladness, delight, or rejoicing and unlike the world’s definition of joy, spiritual joy is not dependent on a situation. Joy-filled believers make a commitment to gratitude regardless of the situation. As found in James 1:2, “Count it all joy brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” In the story above, I mentioned that I found no joy in the happiness of my granddaughter’s play. My days were just sad and angry, lacking hope in my future and her future. I missed so many God-given opportunities to commit to joyfulness. As God restored my hope, He used this sweet child to bring laughter and joy back into our home and my heart was transformed. That is why joy is so important. When joy is restored, worship of God, prayer, and spending time in the Word become a priority. Not all the days were filled with joy, but knowing that hope was the anchor for my soul (Hebrews 6:19), I treasured every bit of joy and rested in knowing more would come in God’s timing.
Born into a Living Hope
Peter tells us we are born again to a living hope and that this hope is imperishable, undefiled, and an unfading inheritance that is kept in heaven for us. Peter goes on to say that in this hope we rejoice, even though for a little we have been grieved by various trials, which test the genuineness of our faith, resulting in praise and glory and honor (1 Peter 1:1-7). As counselors we will meet counselees who have suffered greatly from the pain of grief. What a blessing it is to share with them that in Christ there is hope and in that hope there is joy that brings praise and glory to God.
- A thankful journal: When we focus on all that God has done and thank Him for His goodness, we can experience the hope He offers.
- Look for joy in all the little events in your life, make note of them and refer back as you need to.
- Memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13, rewrite it in your own words, and pray your words back to God.
- Do your own biblical study on hope or joy or both and write down the verses you find and meditate on them, share your thoughts in your journal.
- Using Psalm 23, go verse by verse and write out what God has done for you. Thank God for all He is doing in your life and be specific.
- Read 1 Peter 1:1-9 daily, rewrite this section in your own words, and be prepared to explain how hope has impacted your life.