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Interpreting Grief According to God’s Truth 

The world sees grief as something to get rid of as quickly as possible. But as Christians, the Lord purposefully sanctifies us through our grief as we behold the glory of Christ.

Jun 6, 2024

The Problem of Grief 

If I told you that tomorrow, all day you would be extremely sad, how would you react? Would you be dreading the thought of having to wake up? Would you know what to do? Would you strive for worldly joys? Ice cream, your favorite movie, a latte? Oftentimes, we are so repulsed by the idea of grief and sadness themselves that we often seek the quickest way out possible. In a world where there is a quick fix for everything, there are countless worldly quick fixes for undesirable emotions. 

Five months into marriage my wife experienced a miscarriage. Being pregnant was not something that we were expecting, but it didn’t take long for us to be filled with joy and excitement over our first child. But as quickly as those emotions came, they went away, and they were replaced with brokenness, confusion, and pain. Why would God give us something we weren’t asking for at the time, let us rejoice and be thankful, only to take it away such a short time later? 

My flesh was crying out, “it’s meaningless!” Sleepless nights, diminished pleasure in normal activities, and inappropriate guilt would be all too familiar in the following weeks. As Solomon says, “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief” (Proverbs 14:13). But by His grace, God revealed to us that the indwelling pain and grief was saying something far more true about the world He made than a forced happy face. And it was through this that His Spirit helped us not lose sight of the other truths about God and His divine will. 

The Gift of Grief 

Death was never a part of God’s good plan. It came through sin (Romans 5:12). Once God reminded me of this truth, my hatred for sin grew. Sin has so corrupted this world and we long for the day when all things are completely made new. A day when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will no longer be any death, there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). It is a reminder that this world is passing away, that darkness and evil will not get the final word (1 John 2:17). My love, hope, and trust in God are greater today because of this trial. 

But we were still sad. We still experienced grief. It is not as though when God reveals deep truth to you that your sadness and grief immediately disappear. It means that He taught us how to grieve in a godly way. How to be comforted by him and find joy in him, all while grieving our loss. He was gracious to not allow grief to swallow up every part of our heart and mind, but also provided room for hope, peace, joy, and faith that could only be found through Christ. 

As you set your mind on what is above (Colossians 3:1-3), your affliction starts to feel more and more light and momentary because what is being prepared for you is an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). The world does not change, our circumstances may not change, but our hearts can. Focusing on the here and now and trying to understand your affliction in your own strength or through your own perspective leads to weariness. But as you enter the sanctuary of God and look to the things that are eternal (Psalm 73:17), you will be filled with hope and peace. 

We have not been promised a sad free life. We have been promised an immeasurable hope, a secure future, and a God and Savior who will comfort you through any trial (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). Sorrow and grief are honest evaluations of life at times. They say that I have tasted a good gift from God and now it is gone. He gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21). 

The Truth of Grief 

Samuel Rutherford once said, “Think not much of a storm upon the sea when Christ is in the ship.” Painful grief may tempt us to only think of the storm. The past storm, the present storm, and how the storm will bring about darkness in the future. But the Lord calls us to move beyond our circumstances and ourselves and dwell upon Him and His ways, as His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Isaiah 26:3–4 exhorts us in this way: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” 

In Lamentations 3:17, Jeremiah says that his soul is bereft of peace, and he has forgotten what happiness is. What does he say that he is thinking about that is leading to this? His affliction and his wandering (Lamentations 3:19-20). We are not defined by what has been done to us. We are not defined by what we did in the past. We are defined by what God has done for us and who we are in Christ. Christ gives us the strength to endure and a counter-culture perspective to count it all joy when we encounter various trials (James 1:2). 

The ongoing grief may be there so that you will pause and run towards God more. But so often we do the opposite. Couldn’t it be possible that your continual endurance in prayer and pleading to God and going to him over and over is producing more fruit in you than if your grief vanished? 

We have a God who sees our pains and sorrows and He cares. He is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Out of His great love for us, He sent His one and only Son to die and bear our sins upon himself, who is alive today and is interceding on our behalf and working to wipe away every tear from our eye (Revelation 21:3-4). That is why ongoing unproportionate grief for a Christian is saying something untrue about God and an unbelief in the eschatological hope found in Him alone. As believers, this is why we are free to grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Because after we have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish us (1 Peter 5:10).