Life is full of its ups and downs, its unexpected events and its common occurrences. But one of the most life-altering events that we rarely, if ever, can properly prepare for, and also is often extremely difficult to go through, is the loss of a loved one.
I went to a funeral recently and there are no words to describe the pain and heartache felt there, both by me and the grieving family. It is sad to think that oftentimes it is easy for us, when looking on the outside in, to give what feels like the perfect advice or counsel. But nothing can prepare you for the actual event. It is easy to say that they are now with Jesus, that they are now no longer in pain or crying or have to endure this world….but when reality hits, those words no longer seem to hold nearly as much meaning. The wind gets knocked out of you, you have a terrible ache in your chest/heart that will not go away, and there is literally nothing you can say or do because death and the pain associated with it is indescribable.
In Ecclesiastes it talks about how there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. A question many people seem to have is, what is the proper way to grieve as a Christian? As Christians, should we not grieve because we have a hope and have nothing to fear or grieve because of Jesus’s promises in John 14:2, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”; and in Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”?
There are multiple life issues/questions that cause me to wonder, “If I react this way, will it not make me a Christian?” It is like there is an unspoken rule that if I don’t say a certain thing or act a certain way, then I am showing a lack of faith. For example, when losing a loved one, if I don’t act strong and cry a lot and feel sad, then that must mean I don’t have faith in God.
This way of thinking is so wrong. Jesus Himself cried (John 11:35). He invented tears with the thought process in mind that we would need them in order to help us process emotions. With death in particular in mind, and the grieving process, the important thing to note is the mindset that one has when grieving. If you are grieving without hope, then my prayer is that God comes swooping in like He so casually usually does and lifts you up into His hope.
It is okay to cry. It is okay to be weak every once in awhile. It is okay to admit that you can’t do this anymore. None of that is a sign that you are no longer a Christian. It is just a confirmation that you are human. Do you think God didn’t know that you would be saddened by death? Do you think that whenever you break down into tears, He’s flipping His hands into the air and saying, “Well shucks, now you’ve gone and done it and I don’t even know what to do now”? No! God of all people understands grief. He watched His only Son die. His heart aches when ours do. He cries when we do. He is a good, good Father, and He loves us so inexplicably much that He is always willing and ready to be there right beside us. Yes, there is a point to be strong. Yes, there is a point where you have to dry your tears and learn to live your life. But that does not mean there is a certain time frame in which that is supposed to happen, and it certainly does not mean that you should feel pressured to grieve any faster or slower than somebody else.
Another key point: Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect so much out of yourself. You are human. You have a heart. You are going to be sad and grieve every once in awhile. That is okay. There is nothing in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not cry.” Ecclesiastes says there is a time/season; it doesn’t say that this season is a year long, or two months, or five hours. It simply states that there is a time to cry/mourn. We humans can be so hard on ourselves, pushing ourselves to be strong. It is my belief that it takes a true strong person to be willing to fall to our knees and hold our hands up and say, “God, I can’t do this anymore. Please help me.”
On the flip side of the coin, it is also not healthy to grieve alone. Being left to your own thoughts can and will be the worst feeling in the world. Your mind can be turned into a vicious cycle; and since grief brings you to your lowest and weakest point, that is when the devil is going to come swooping in with all kinds of lies and deceit. You may not feel strong enough to resist him; that is okay. That is why God created community. Do not feel afraid to reach out to somebody for help. I can’t tell you, from personal experience, how many times I tried to deal with something on my own. It tore me up for weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years. And the minute I reached out to my Christian friends and family and told them what was going on, whether or not I asked for help, I felt better. I had someone helping me fight my battles. Somebody holding my hand, holding me, reminding me that God is in control and I don’t have to be alone.
Everybody is different. But turning to God and needing people in your life should never be optional. People are God’s blessing just as much as tears are. May He grant those who grieve today with an extra measure of peace, love, and comfort.
Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.Annie Roiphe