In an era where “choose joy” is a popular mantra, my title for this post may cause some questions and confusion for you.
Who would want to do that? Right?! From a raw, human perspective, grief is often accompanied by pain, suffering, loss, turmoil and/or difficulty. It’s definitely not a place any of us would choose…on our own.
So, what do I mean? To explain that, I need to share with you our personal grief, grief’s origin, grief’s process and grief’s dramatic ending.
Our Personal Grief
If there’s one word to describe my 2019, it would, without a doubt or hesitation, be grief. I’m not one to choose a word for the upcoming year, but instead, I like to reflect back on what God has taught me in the last 365 days. This truly has been the most difficult year of our lives. We have the ever-growing abundance of white hairs and wrinkles to prove it.
We have grieved great loss. Ten loved ones have passed away, including dear family (my grandfather, my cousin and my dad), close friends and a former co-worker. Additionally, our daughter has had to grieve great change in her life as she joined our family through adoption.
We have grieved great sin and watched it divide and separate relationships.
We have grieved great sorrows with our dear friends and family.
We have grieved grief.
Grief is ugly. We have grieved much and not always in a neat, clean “grief-always-looks-like-this” kind of way. We know our grief is far from over while we remain on this earth!
Grief began because of sin.
When Adam and Eve first went against God in that beautiful, perfect Garden of Eden by directly disobeying His command, they sinned and grief was born. To the woman He said: I will greatly multiply your sorrow (Genesis 3:16a). The abundance of sin even grieved our Creator to the point where He destroyed all but one family. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved (Genesis 6:6).
God encourages us to grieve. What a comfort that is! When the world and even our Christian friends are constantly telling us to “choose joy”, “stay strong” or “God’s got this!”, God actually gives us a place to grieve, doubt him and lament.
For one of the best examples of this, look at the life of Job in Scripture. Here was a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1). He had a large family, great riches and was the greatest of all the people of the East (Job 1:3). Satan suggested Job’s dedication to God was only because God blessed him with a protected, bountiful life. He lost thousands of oxen, donkeys, sheep and camels, his home, his servants, his children and his own health. The only things left for him was a nagging, discouraging wife and three “friends” who said all of the wrong things. Talk about a cause for grief!
How did Job respond? With grief, and it was ugly.
- Anger & bitterness (Job 3)
- Justifying his right to despair (Job 6)
- Sorrow over his lack of comfort (Job 7)
- Acknowledging the power of God but doubting His presence (Job 9)
- Begging God for relief (Job 10 & 17)
- Defending God’s sovereignty to his unhelpful friends (Job 12-13:19; Job 16 & 21)
- Questioning God (Job 13:20-14:22)
- Trusting his Redeemer (Job 19)
- Lamenting the perceived absence of God (Job 23)
- Complaining of the sin around him (Job 24)
- Recognizing man’s frailty and God’s majesty and wisdom (Job 26-28)
- Lamenting the blessings of the past (Job 29-31)
Job’s great grief matched his tremendous loss. However, there was much silence from God during Job’s grieving process. In fact, there were thirty-seven chapters of silence. When God finally speaks (Job 38-40:2, 6-41:34), He expresses His sovereign power over the universe, thereby emphasizing the absolute weakness of man.
He is God. We are not.
And in our imperfect humanity, we can incorrectly imagine God as evil or wrong in what He allows, but we must also remember this:
He is altogether righteous. We are not. (Job 40:1-2, 7-8)
What does that lead Job to do? He acknowledges God’s omnipotence and repents of His unbelief through his loss and grief (Job 42:1-6).
What does God then do? He condemns those Pharisaical friends (Job 42: 7-8) and blesses Job with more than he had before (Job 42:10-17).
Job isn’t the only place that speaks on sorrow. The Bible is packed with verses on sorrow and how God aids us in our grief!:
- He gives place for sorrow! (…Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad…-Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)
- He cares about our grief! (You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book.-Psalm 56:8)
- He promises comfort! (Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.-Matthew 5:4)
- He promises to be near us! (The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.-Psalm 34:18).
- He hears our cries and is our refuge! (…from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy…-Psalm 61)
Just as with Job, our process of grief as a Christian should only lead us to one Person–our God, our Creator, our Lord & Savior! He is the only One Who can mend our broken heart. Even when there is anger, bitterness, tears, silence, perceived lack of evidence of God’s goodness…God is pulling us to Himself in our grief. He wants us to recognize that He is there. We cannot do life without Him. We don’t need to have sight in order to believe. We don’t need to have sight in order to have joy! We just need our Bible and a will to read it in order to understand our all-knowing, always-loving God. A will to read doesn’t come immediately in grief, but if you truly know Christ as Savior, it should come at some point. Until then, it seems forced and worthless, but in His Word is where you will find Jesus again (My soul melts away from sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!-Psalm 119:28)!
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of gory, receiving the end of your faith-the salvation of your souls (I Peter 1:6-9).
But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me (Micah 7:7).
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness (Psalm 30:11).
Grief’s Dramatic Ending
I am so thankful Scripture does not give a specific time frame or limit for our grieving process! Sorrow’s duration looks different for every person and for each circumstance that God places in our lives. In light of eternity, our grief is microscopic, but on earth, it appears supersized. Speak God’s truth into your heart in the midst of your deepest grief! Remember the beautiful promise that thankfully, our grief is not forever because of His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).
Today, I can honestly choose grief because years ago, I chose Christ, and anything…anything that comes into my life draws me closer to my Savior. In Him alone my true joy lies!
Be hopeful, friend! Eternal joy is coming!