Thursday, November 5, 2020

Suffering and Grief

"Jesus wept" (John 11:35)

Most people know that the shortest verse in the English Bible is “Jesus wept.” What was the occasion for Jesus’ tears? It was the death of His friend Lazarus. Jesus wept as He stood before Lazarus’ tomb.

Given Jesus’ understanding of life after death, of the glories of the resurrection, how could He cry at Lazarus’ tomb? Why didn’t Jesus shout for joy, smiling because Lazarus had gone to a better life? Often we find a false piety among Christians that teaches just this idea: We are supposed to celebrate at funerals, not weep at them. The Bible, however, tells us to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

It is surely true that a person who dies in Christ has gone to a better life, but that does not address the cause of grief. To understand grief we need to understand the covenant. God has made us so that we have covenantal relationships with each other, relationships that are profound and mysterious. The closer we are to someone, the more intense that relationship is. Death tears that relationship apart. It is as painful at the level of the psyche as having an arm or leg ripped off would be at the level of physical pain.

The process of grieving and mourning was designed by God to help us move past the situation of death into a new life. God created tears for this purpose. The person who is grieving needs time to heal from the old relationship and develop new aspects of his or her life to replace the old relationship. This usually takes at least a year.

In the face of a friend’s suffering, it can be difficult to offer comfort. Often we do not want to hear about God’s sovereignty in the face of tragedy. We would prefer to remain angry and self-centered. It is at such times that we must act with great caution. It is never legitimate to be angry with God. To do so is an affront to God’s holiness. It is an unspoken declaration that God has done an injustice.

At the same time we cannot improve by denying the presence of anger. That compounds the sin of unrighteous anger with the sin of dishonesty. If you find yourself or others getting angry at God in the face of suffering, repent of that sin and ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse you of that anger, to remind you that He is sovereign and just.

How much do you know about grief? There are several aspects of mourning and several cycles and stages that people go through. Ask your pastor to conduct a seminar on the subject, so that you will be more sensitive to the needs of people going through this painful but healing process.