Die to Grief
Christ was to be a Comforter, and so he is; he is sent to comfort all who mourn, and who seek to him, and not to the world, for comfort. [i]
he title of this reading may be off-putting to those who have suffered great loss, and so let me assure you I do not mean we are to forget the precious ones who have preceded us in death, or to dismiss wounds we have received and suffering we have endured. Sorrow is a fact of most lives, and of course we aren’t wrong to have suffered as a result of grievous events. I mean only that we must not allow our lives to be defined by sorrow. When our focus is upon all we have lost, we lose sight of all we have gained in Christ.
When grief is new, it blinds with an agony so multi-faceted that it defies analysis. During those early days, we learn the meaning of the everlasting arms;[ii] the Almighty carries us. But soon, sooner than we want, this first numbness and blindness dissolves, and it is then we must choose whether we will stay in the place of sorrow or walk forward with the Lord. Leaving the place of grieving as led by our Savior does not mean, as it may seem, that we are leaving our loved ones behind. It means we are hurrying toward reunion with them alongside the One who is holding them safe in His arms. The world’s wisdom tells us to cherish memories, but in truth, it is through Christ that our connection with those who have died in Christ remains.
If we follow counsel to draw our comfort from memories, we abide in the past rather than moving forward with Christ. Thus we rob ourselves of healing communion with Him and our suffering does not diminish. If we continue in this pattern of responding, we develop a sense of entitlement to take our comfort where we can find it. We have been through so much, all our dreams have gone beyond hope of fulfillment, and surely no one could blame us for seeking our own relief from pain.
This is the way that people who have never known salvation in Jesus Christ may react to grief, but when we as Christians respond like this, we dishonor the Lord. We are not to grieve in the same ways as those who have no hope.[iii] We have a glorious hope, not only for provision of all we need during our most difficult days, but also for a future that will bring us eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. In seasons of grieving, it is this hope in Christ that needs to hold our focus.
Sometimes we nurture anger toward the Lord, but this is self-defeating. It is a divine paradox that the only comfort for our injuries lies in the arms of Him who allowed the blows to fall. We don’t have to understand, but we do need to trust. The decision to trust takes place in the will and not in the emotions, and so even on our most difficult days we can agree with King David’s words: “But I trust in you O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God, my times are in your hands’” (Psalm 31:14).
The Lord expects us to trust Him, and the reason He expects trust from us is that we know Him. Knowing Him, how can we possibly fail to trust when He did not withhold even His only begotten Son from us? How can we fail to trust in a God who is not only perfect in love, but is also perfect in resurrection power that has conquered death?
Lord, forgive us when our trust wavers.
Pray: Father, I pour out my sorrow to You. Here are the losses I’ve sustained, the dear faces of those that I won’t see again until Heaven, and my tears. I do not turn away from You in my grief, I come to You willingly and with praise for who You are and the sacrifice You made for us on the Cross. I praise You because by Your suffering, dying, and resurrection, You have made death into a temporary passage rather than a permanent state. I praise You and thank You for Your provision for me now, and for the promise of eternity with You. Amen and amen!
When my soul was embittered…
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.Psalm 73:21-26