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How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? …
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.—Psalm 13:1,2,5,61
What the Bible says about grief
Grief is an emotion common to the human experience, and we witness the process of grief throughout the biblical narrative. Multiple Bible characters experienced deep loss and sadness, including Job, Naomi, Hannah, and David. Even Jesus mourned.2 After Lazarus died, Jesus went to the village of Bethany, where Lazarus was buried. When Jesus saw Martha and the other mourners weeping, He also wept. He was moved by their grief and also by the fact of Lazarus’s death. The astounding thing is that, even though Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He chose to partake of the grief of the situation. Jesus truly is a high priest who can “sympathize with our weaknesses.”3
One step in overcoming grief is having the right perspective on it. First, we recognize that grief is a natural response to pain and loss. There is nothing wrong with grieving. Second, we know that times of grief serve a purpose. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” This verse implies that grief can be good because it can refresh our perspective on life. Third, we remember that feelings of grief are temporary. “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”4 There is an end to mourning. Grief has its purpose, but it also has its limit.
Through it all, God is faithful. There are many scriptures that remind us of God’s faithfulness in times of mourning. He is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death.5 When David sorrowed, he prayed this in Psalm 56:8: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”6 The touching image of God catching our tears is full of meaning. He sees our grief and does not disdain it. Like Jesus entered into the grief of the mourners in Bethany, God enters into our grief. At the same time, He reassures us that all is not lost. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “be still” and rest in the knowledge that He is God. He is our refuge.7 He works all things together for the good of those He has called.8
An important part of overcoming grief is expressing it to God. The Psalms contain numerous examples of pouring out one’s heart to God. Interestingly, the psalmist never ends where he began. He may start a psalm with expressions of grief, but, almost invariably, he will end it with praise.9 God understands us.10 When we commune with Him, we are able to open our minds to the truth that He loves us, that He is faithful, that He is in control, and that He knows how He is going to work it out for our good.
Another important step in overcoming grief is to share it with others. The body of Christ is designed to ease the burdens of its individual members,11 and fellow believers have the ability to “mourn with those who mourn.”12 Often, the grieving tend to shun others, increasing feelings of isolation and misery. It is much healthier to seek counseling, and group settings can be invaluable. Groups offer listening ears and helpful encouragement, camaraderie, and guidance in working through the grief. When we share our stories with God and others, our grief is lessened.
Sadly, grief is part of the human experience. Loss is part of life, and grief is a natural response to loss. But we have the hope of Christ, and we know that He is strong enough to carry our burdens.13 We can give our hurt to Him because He cares for us.14 We can find solace in the Holy Spirit, our Comforter.15 In grief, we cast our burdens on Him, rely on the community of the church, delve into the truth of the Word, and ultimately experience hope.16—From gotquestions.org17
Living with loss
When my son Steve’s last breath passed his lips early one morning in a small hospital room overlooking the ocean, the world stood still for me. A large yellow butterfly fluttered through the open window, and I felt God reassuring me that He had taken Steve gently to His unseen realm. Still, the impact of losing my son left me in shambles long after everyone else’s mourning had passed.
“Let go and move on” was the well-meaning advice I seemed to get from every side. But where was I to move on to? And how? Deep inside, I felt bitter and angry with God for snatching my vibrant young son from me. I felt cheated and empty. My heart remained heavy as the months dragged by and I pondered my loss again and again.
Eventually I decided to meet God on my porch early each morning to tell Him of my woes. Days stretched to weeks as I poured on Him all my grief, remorse, and anger over what had happened. “If love is the essence of Your nature, as the Bible says, how could You deal so harshly with me and my son?” I asked over and over.
What a patient and longsuffering listener I found.
I cried and pleaded and reasoned, until finally one morning I felt I had said all that I wanted and poured out all my emotions. It was then, when I was willing to make peace with God, that tranquility filled my soul. In a still, soothing voice, God began to speak to my heart. From that point on, my solitary morning porch meetings with God took another direction. I learned to listen to Him and to allow Him to comfort me and heal my pain.—Iris Richard
Billy Graham on suffering and grief
The death of someone we love is still painful to us, even as Christians—not because we fear for them, but because of the empty place they leave behind in our hearts. The Bible says we don’t “grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope”—but we will still grieve.18
The more we loved someone, the more we will miss them—and the more we will look forward to seeing them again in heaven.
One of the hardest experiences any of us will ever face in life is losing someone we dearly love—and I know it’s especially hard when death comes unexpectedly and we have no opportunity to say a final goodbye.
Perhaps the most important thing I can say to you is that God loves you and understands what you’re going through. When Jesus stood by the tomb of His friend Lazarus, He knew that shortly He would bring Lazarus back to life—but the Bible still says that “Jesus wept.”19 This is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it reveals a great truth about Christ’s compassion for those who grieve. The Bible says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”20
You will always remember your [loved one], and your grief over his death won’t go away quickly. But in time, your pain will lessen—and God wants to help you in this process. What can you do? First, take time each day to thank God for the years you had together. Thankfulness is like a healing balm to our souls.
Ask God to help you reach out to others who are grieving. They need your encouragement—and you need theirs. Most of all, don’t carry your burden alone, but hand it over to Christ. The Bible says, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”21—Rev. Billy Graham
(See also: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/71071/20170703/billy-graham-reveals-important-thing-those-mourning-loss-loved-one.htm.)
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.—Psalm 23:422
Published on Anchor June 2018. Read by Jon Marc. Music by John Listen.
2 John 11:35.
3 Hebrews 4:15.
4 Psalm 30:5.
5 Psalm 23:4.
7 Psalm 91:1–2.
8 Romans 8:28.
9 Psalm 13; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 30:11–12; Psalm 56.
10 Psalm 139:2.
11 Galatians 6:2.
12 Romans 12:15.
13 Matthew 11:30.
14 1 Peter 5:7.
15 John 14:16.
16 Hebrews 6:19–20.
18 1 Thessalonians 4:13.
19 John 11:35.
20 Lamentations 3:22.
21 Psalm 55:22.