Have you known grief? It is more than feeling sad, experiencing regret, or being blue. Grief is a range of emotions including sorrow, anger, and loss. For some, grief is like a thunderstorm that passes with furious turbulence rather quickly. For others it is a hurricane that lingers, stormy and destructive. Grief shows up at death. The aging often experience it. Divorce brings it home. Job loss or relocation can often provoke grief. With our aversion to pain, many people refuse to acknowledge or enter into their grief. Distractions can bury it; so we take a trip, or buy a car, or redecorate the house, or throw ourselves headlong into a project. We have medications that can be helpful but can also be misused to sidestep the necessary process. Grief is real. It is natural. And, it can help us to mature!
For the Christian, grief is a tool that God uses to break the grip of the love of temporary things. Grief can help us reach out to take hold of what is lasting and eternal. Knowing this, a wise person will endure grief, learn from it, and grow through it.
Be willing to let yourself enter into the sadness. It hurts- badly! Many of us refuse to let ourselves weep because we think others will see us as weak. Jesus wept, not in self-pity which is weakness, but because His heart was broken by death, sin, and rebellion against God. Grief often brings such darkness it seems we will never again see the light, but every night is followed by the dawn even in times of grief.
Walk with others in your grief. With the decay of circles of family and community, we have had to develop places where we can share our grief. Churches have grief counseling. Hospitals often offer grief recovery groups. They can be valuable, a place to talk openly. Families that allow their members to grieve, who talk together, pray together, and sometimes just walk it out together, with patient love, are part of the process.
Pray about your grief. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:17-18, NIV) It is true! No one understands like Jesus! Your tears are a language for Him. If all you do in prayer for days is cry, He will not turn away from you. The wisdom of God is found in Jesus’ amazing words. “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” (Matthew 5:4, The Message) You’re probably more familiar with that passage in these words, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, NIV) Receiving those words demands deep faith! We would rather pray for a life free of things that make us grieve than to allow our hearts to be broken, wouldn’t we? Those who will not let their hearts be broken are doomed to living superficially, loving things that will slip through their fingers eventually regardless of their determination.
Put your hope in God! The Preacher tells us that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4, NIV) When the sorrows come, let them cause you to love the things that you can never lose and the One who holds life everlasting more. Make active choices to join others in worship. “But, I’ll cry.” Perhaps you will, but if it is a community of God’s people, they love you more. Read the promises of the Word about His restoration, about His eternal home, about His power to heal – and make those truths to live by.
Grief is hard, but it is not wasted. So here is the word from the Word – “Sing to the Lord, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. … You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Psalm 30:4-5, 11-12, NIV)