In a broken world, grief is inevitable. While the experience of grief is common, responding well to grief is not. Perhaps you have seen a grieving person spiral downward into a pit of self-despair, or display self-destructive habits, or completely isolate themselves from friends and family. Perhaps that person is you. The experience of grief is bad enough; responding poorly to grief can be like adding salt to an open wound. Thankfully, God provides wisdom from his word to help us respond well when we are grieving. While we see many responses to grief in the Scriptures, let me highlight three for your consideration.
Grieve with honesty
Healing and comfort will be a stranger to you if grief is suppressed, denied, or left unexpressed. Most importantly, you must work toward expressing the truth of how you feel to God. You cannot allow yourself to believe that God does not want to hear “how you really feel” or that he cannot handle your pain, frustration, doubt, confusion, or anguish.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest” (Ps. 22:1-2).
The Psalmist doesn’t shy away from expressing how he feels about the situation, specifically his feeling that God does not feel close. David takes this feeling straight to God. As we see in Psalm 22, David is not only committed to being honest before God about how he feels, but he is also committed to being honest before God about who he knows God to be.
“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (Ps. 22:3-5).
David felt that God was far away so he expressed that grief to God. David’s honesty allowed him to process his pain in light of the truth that God reigns on high as a trustworthy God who delivers and rescues his people. Honesty in grief is not just about declaring how we feel, it is also about declaring what we know to be true about God.
God will hear you when you cry out, and that is why you must cry out. God will draw near when you express your grief. He is not afraid of your honesty, and he is unmoved in the midst of distress. Grieving with honesty concerning your pain and God’s character is an important step toward allowing the comfort of God to penetrate the pain of your heart and bring healing in the midst of brokenness.
Grieve with expectancy
Grieving is a natural response to pain, suffering, and hardship. In the midst of grief, it is common to feel or even start to believe that things will never get better, easier, or more manageable. When you feel like the pain will never come to an end, let me encourage you to find hope in the God who comforts, heals, and restores.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
Psalm 42 reminds us that grief doesn’t have the final say. This doesn’t minimize the grief you may currently be experiencing; it simply places it in proper perspective. As a believer in Christ, you should expect to experience the healing work of the Lord in your life as you press into him. Like the Psalmist, we live out our faith in God by believing that we will again praise him, because he is our salvation and our God. We fight back against the pull toward depression and despondency because we know that God will not abandon us or let us see corruption (Ps. 16:10). Because comfort and healing are coming, we grieve with hopeful expectancy.
Grieve with community
Grief can tempt us to turn inward and become isolated from others. This can happen in very obvious ways. We stop showing up for corporate worship, we stop showing up for small group meetings, and we stop meeting with others in social settings. But this can also happen in less obvious ways. There is a way to be physically present but emotionally absent. When you are grieving the hard things of life, resist the temptation to simply “go through the motions.” Don’t shut people out of your life. One of the many benefits of the body of Christ is that it is one of the primary ways God brings healing in the midst of grief.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God has graciously given us brothers and sisters in Christ to be an extension of his comforting hand. While it can be hard to share grief with others, it is vitally important that we pursue the grace of God in the context of community.
We won’t be free of grief this side of eternity, but with the presence of grief comes the power of God to heal and restore. As you suffer, remember to grieve with honesty, crying out to God. Remember to grieve with the expectancy, believing God will bring comfort and healing. And remember to grieve with community, engaging brothers and sisters who can extend the Lord’s hand of comfort in the midst of your pain.
Kent is a native of southern Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He met his wife Hope at a Christian sports camp in Pennsylvania in 2007. They got married in 2010 and have three kids: Silas, Anna, and Grace. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and loves talking about the intricacies of the golf swing. As a pastor, he loves having a front-row seat to watch how Jesus transforms people’s lives.