Grief is a painful experience. It is an inevitable part of life. Why do we grieve? What does grief look like? What hope is there when we are consumed by grief?
We Feel Shock
“Grandpa is dying. The doctors say we need to say our goodbyes.” Sitting there in the passenger seat I opened my phone, read those words, turned the screen off, put the phone down, and sat there. I just sat and felt my mind lose all thoughts and emotions. “What's wrong?” I heard; *snap* ...back to reality. I could not say anything. I just sat, holding it in. The shock had set in and taken hold.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26
We deny it and isolate ourselves
I go into his hospital room and my family ask the nurse “Is he getting better? Do you see signs of improvement?” They had every inclination that he would get better and go home. Never mind that he is on life support, quickly deteriorating, and no one can figure out why he won’t wake up from his coma or what put him there in the first place. This poor, broken man was lying there dying while most of the family was in complete denial.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4
We get angry over things that make no sense
A few days later I came upon the Texas Toast section in the grocery store. I saw it and nearly burst into tears over my shopping cart. Texas Toast was a common dinner side dish at my grandparent’s house, and it was one of my grandpa’s and my favorites. In that moment I thought Texas Toast would forever be something that would make me want to cry and that made me incredibly, and ridiculously, angry. The darn Texas Toast would never be the same.
'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ' John 14:27
We fall into depression
Depression sneaks up on us in many different forms. It can look like me at 13 years old, sunken deep into darkness, thinking I was no longer worthy of living, begging God to let me go; like staying in bed all day, not wanting to move, get dressed, shower, eat; like compulsive purchases of crazy things that don’t matter or make sense; like my mother slumped on the bathroom floor, not able to breathe through the unexplainable sudden tears, or stand from the weight of deep constant sadness; like there is no joy left in the world.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
We bargain with the delusion that we can fix it
I remember being 15 years old lying curled up on the floor of my bedroom, crying harder than almost any other time in my life to this day after my first love and I split up for the final time. I begged for God to take the pain, to fix my broken heart, pleaded that I would do anything for the pain to stop and for the person I thought was the love of my life to forgive my stupidity and come back. I was in agony and I begged and pleaded, trying to bargain my way out of grief.
'But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. ' John 14:26
We accept it
Grief clouds our minds and provides a playground for Satan, but it also provides a gap in the dark clouds for God’s hand to reach out and pick us up, bringing us into His light.
' Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.' Isaiah 40:1
I love the way In Touch Ministries put it; “The Lord personally provides consolation and reassurance because no one knows our hurts the way He does.”
Through our grief we can become stronger people, deeper in faith, closer to God, and more humble and wise. Through the grace of God we are sustained. God is in complete control and does not give us more than we can handle with His help. When we hit our limit we are called to give God the reigns. Give Him the control and let him take over and carry us through the remainder of our grief.
Watching my grandfather there, unconscious, grimacing in pain, frail and thin like paper, I knew that he would meet God, and his suffering may end soon. I recognized that God is powerful and loving enough to comfort my family while we grieve the condition of such an important man, while He also carries my grandpa through his suffering.
In Touch Ministries goes on to say “People who fail to understand the true source of comfort try to escape their pain. They seek out pleasures, material wealth, or drugs and alcohol to soothe them. Only God can offer lasting relief from the crushing pressure of heartache. He even brings joy into periods of mourning.”
In our grief, God calls out to us. He mourns with us, for us, and wants to take our pain and bring us comfort.
' Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.' Isaiah 49:13
God has endured the ultimate grief. God sent His own Son, the image of Himself, to earth to heal and guide His people and then ultimately to die a horrendous death on our behalf. God has seen and felt the grief of ultimate loss, and all for our own sakes. Through His loss we have all gained forgiveness, comfort, and pure love. Even when we suffer, God will lift us up and console us. Let God take control of your grief. Let Him be at your side and fill you with a ridiculous peace and love. Let Him teach you of His goodness through your heartache. God is strong enough to help you through your grief when you are at the end of your strength.
'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. ' 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
God shows up in many ways. Sometimes God heals us on earth and we are given more time here, and sometimes the healing and peace waits until after this life. All the time, though, God is in control, God comforts, God heals, God loves. Let us give God control, and let us be a comforter to those who grieve as God comforts us.