“Christians experience grief but without despair, sorrow but without defeat, sadness but without hopelessness.” Tim Challies, “How to Grieve Like a Christian”
All of us must face seasons of life that bring a time of separation, grief, and pain. People that we love are injured or killed in accidents. Others are diagnosed with terminal diseases, and the process of dying ensues. Women experience miscarriages and grieve the loss of a child they have dreamed of and for whom they have prayed.
The Scriptures show that death is universal and that its cause was the Fall, as Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Romans 5:12 says that “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” In fact, this was the punishment that God had declared to Adam and Eve when he told them that “on the day that you eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
Death is not merely physical death, however; death can also be spiritual or eternal. Spiritual death is why we must be raised to life through faith by the power of Jesus Christ. Eternal death is separation from God forever.
As I write this sentence, one of our trustees is burying his wife after she succumbed to cancer. Three weeks ago a beautiful family that attends our church buried their sixteen-yearold child following a car accident. One week ago, my wife sat next to her dying father as he drew his last breath and went to be with the Lord. My guess is that everyone reading this Building Bridges has lost someone they love and experienced the pain of grief.
Even Jesus experienced the loss of a good friend, Lazarus. When he arrived to find that Lazarus had died, Jesus wept. While Jesus raised Lazarus back to life and enjoyed his company a while longer, the rest of us who are faced with grief feel lost, alone, sad, angry.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified five stages of grief as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages help identify a framework that makes up our learning to live without the person we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not linear stops on some Timeline of Grief. Not everyone goes through all of the stages or experiences them in a prescribed order. Grief is as unique as each person experiencing it. David Kessler, a grief professional who worked with Kübler-Ross, published a book this year called Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. Kessler wrote this book not merely as a scientist, but from the context of losing his twenty-one-year-old son.
I Corinthians 15:26 identifies death as “the last enemy” we will face. Even to the Christian, death is an enemy because God created us to live. While death and grief are painful, those of us who are in Christ find that He brings comfort to the brokenhearted. And, while we grieve, we grieve from a place of assurance and hope. “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (I Thess. 4:13-14).
While none of us can escape the hurt of losing a loved one, we can rest assured that those who die in Christ are raised from the dead. “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). It is good and right to grieve. If you have lost a loved one, it is natural for you to feel a profound sense of loss. There are no directions or explicit directions on how to grieve. There is no time line of grief. There is no “getting over it” and “just moving on.” There is an adage that says, “To heal it, you have to feel it.” As painful as this process is, there are no shortcuts. Tim Challies writes, “Christians experience grief but without despair, sorrow but without defeat, sadness but without hopelessness.”
When Job lost his wealth, his family, his livestock, and servants, his friends and even his wife encouraged him to be angry at God. But Job responded in faith saying, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
One word of caution. No two people grieve the same, not even when it is the same loss. Each person grieves his or her own loss and at his or her own pace. Two parents will grieve differently over the loss of a child. Grief is intensely personal and is what takes place after themourning. Mourning is done together, sharing stories, celebrating a life, and is done during rituals such as funeral services. Grieving is done alone when all of the relatives have gone home and you return to work or school.
“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Building bridges of hope,