Friday, April 15, 2016

Walking through Grief

Photo by Alexey Yakovlev
In recent days I have had several conversations with people dealing with grief.  Now, to be fair, the kinds of grief have been different.  In other words, some have been going through grief due to a loss of a loved one.  Others have gone through grief due to decisions of other people which has caused consequences to fall on the one experiencing the grief.  Others have gone through grief because of false accusations that have weighed heavily on their hearts.  The point is, however, they have each experienced grief.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 reads, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

Obviously, this passage is dealing with the grief associated with the loss of a loved one.  The phrase, “. . . so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope,” is the part I want to focus on for a moment.  Whatever grief you may be experiencing, you have hope if you are born again.  If Christ Jesus lives within you, you have hope.  As a result, you grieve differently than those who do not have a relationship with Jesus.

There is a second reality I want you to notice from his little phrase.  Paul did not tell these believers that they would not grieve.  Rather, all he said was their grief would be different from those who do not have Jesus in their heart.  Whenever one experiences loss, and that is what is transpiring in each of the situations I previously mentioned, one is going to grieve.  Their heart has been wounded because of pain.  The extent of the pain and the grief is going to be directly related to the amount of emotional energy you invested into the source of the grief.  In other words, let’s say you have recently engaged into a relationship with a person and it has only gone on for six months.  All of a sudden, the person with whom you are in this relationship does something that wounds you and you terminate the relationship.  You will grieve the loss of the relationship because you have been wounded.  Will you, however, grieve to the same extent that someone who has lost their spouse to death after fifty years of marriage?  The answer is an obvious, no.  Does this example help you understand the distinction regarding the weight of grief and the intensity of grief?  I hope it does.

There is another thing I wish to share as well.  Let’s assume you are one who has lost a love one of many years to death.  You are the one walking this journey out.  Others have experienced pain, but you were the one who had greater investment into the relationship.  As a result, the following is what often times transpires.  Those who are on the sideline of the grief, think you ought to be further along than you probably are.  For those who have lost loved ones of many decades often say the second year of loss was harder than the first.  The reason is because in the second year, less people are coming around checking on you.  You are still hurting, but others think you ought to be fine by now.  Just understand you are the one walking this journey of pain out.  I would recommend to you two books by C.S. Lewis.  The first is titled A Grief Observed and the second is The Problem of Pain.  These book may assist you in the recovery process.

One last thought.  Let us return to the passage from 1 Thessalonians.  Your cause of grief is not as important as the fact you have grief.  Paul then gives a clear explanation of Jesus’ return and how we are going to be reconciled to Him.  This fact is the key to hope in the midst of our grief.  In other words, if you are in Christ, will you one day meet your Savior in the sky?  The answer is, yes.  Because this statement is the truth of our situation, we are able to observe our grief through the lens of Jesus’ return.  One day Jesus is going to wipe every tear from our eyes.  We know from the Psalmist that Jesus keeps our tears (56:8).  We know Jesus Himself experienced pain and sorrow.  He knows first hand our grief.  Because we know these things to be true, we can rest in Him.

Resting in Jesus is the hard part, however.  He tells us to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  He tells us to take His yoke on us regarding the burden we carry (Matthew 11:28-30).  The reason I say this is the hard part is because Jesus will not force us to cast our cares on Him.  He will not make us take His yoke.  We have to release it to Him and trust Him to bind up our pain.  We have to believe Him to lead us into His eternal arms.  We have to trust Him to wipe our tears away.  For some, they sense if they do this, then they are forsaking their loved one.  Beloved, you are not forsaking the memory of your loved one when you turn it fully over to Jesus.  You are, in fact, displaying the greatest faith at those times and if your loved one is in heaven with the Lord Jesus, then they are all the more pleased that you have turned your pain over to Christ Jesus.  They want you to be healed also.

In conclusion, no matter what your grief is, turn it over to the Lord Jesus.  Rest in His healing and please know, there are no short cuts through the process of earthly recovery.  We must hope and trust in Jesus.  I hope this helps.

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