Ten years ago this week, I learned what grief is. As I processed the reality that my father had breathed his last, and as I started working through funeral arrangements, grief became an unavoidable and constant presence. And an enduring presence. A decade later, the grief is not as sharp or intense as it was back then, but it is still very much a part of me. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t long for my dad to help with a house project or play with his grandchildren or go see a movie with me.
In recent days and months, almost all of us have become more acquainted with grief. Either we’ve suffered a loss in our own lives, or we’ve mourned the death and destruction that shows up in the headlines daily.Like love or joy or hope, grief is not less than an emotion, but it is also much more. Click To Tweet
Like love or joy or hope, grief is not less than an emotion, but it is also much more. And certainly, love and joy are tightly connected with grief. We cannot truly grieve something or someone unless we love them first and take joy in them. It would be natural to think of grief as the opposite of joy, or the absence of love, but that’s not quite right. Grief seems more like joy interrupted, or love recalibrated, or hope deferred. Our love for someone does not evaporate when they have “fallen asleep” (to use a biblical expression). The joy of the relationship does not diminish.
None of us wants to carry the burden of grief, but grief is not our enemy. Death is the enemy. Sin is the enemy. Satan is the enemy. Grief, on the other hand, is a gift. Why a gift? Because grief helps us remember what we would never want to forget. Or it helps us remember that which we shouldn’t forget.
Perhaps most significantly, grief declares that things in this world are not as they should be. Joy is not meant to be interrupted; love is not meant to be recalibrated. And grief dares us to believe that what is broken will one day be restored. As C. S. Lewis observed, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
As a unique kind of desire, grief amplifies this sentiment as much as anything else in life. It is a desire to have what once was, to fix what has been broken, to recover what has been lost. As such, it is a profound witness that our hearts were made for eternity, that human relationships are not meant to have an expiration date.
To this point, I have been focusing primarily on grief that comes from the loss of a loved one, which is likely the most potent form of grief for most of us. But many of the same sentiments will be true of other kinds as well—grief over a lost possession, grief over the death of a pet, grief over a broken friendship, grief over a sin you’ve committed, grief over a sin committed against you. The heaviness and duration will vary, but the message of grief remains the same: “It is not supposed to be this way.”
But how can we say that? How is the world supposed to be?
To find that out, we would need to ask the one who has made all things. And He has not been silent on the answer. God brings forth life—sin brings forth death. God created a world of pure joy—sin leads to despair. And Jesus Christ is the way of hope in a world that often seems so hopelessly marred by evil and destruction.
We grieve over the sin of our past, and the sin still in our hearts. And so we should. The Bible calls this “godly grief” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11) that leads to repentance and salvation.For those who know Christ, our grief is a glorious reminder that sin and death will not have the last word. Click To Tweet
We grieve over the sting of death. And so we should. But for those who know Christ, our grief is a glorious reminder that sin and death will not have the last word. What sin has broken, Jesus will fix. What death has stolen, He will recover. Sin, sickness, pain, natural disasters, evil, death—these do have an expiration date, and grief is a merciful companion that keeps our eyes fixed on the One who will redeem His world. Even nature itself “grieves” its current state and yearns for the wrong to be made right.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:19-25)
Grief is real. Grief is hard. Grief does not go away. But grief is not an enemy, for those who are in Christ. Death has no victory, for those who are in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55). “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning,” for those who are in Christ (Psalm 30:5). Grief is a close ally of hope, for those who are in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
I thank God for the gift of grief, which is meant to lead us to put our trust in Him and nothing else.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” (Lamentations 3:21-22)