Teacher, How do we manage to survive grief in our lives?
Grief is a challenge and a journey.
The Holy Spirit comforts believers. (John 14). The Holy Spirit gives us God’s peace, even in the midst of suffering. Philippians 4 tells us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The peace of The Lord comes from drawing close to Him; not from those circumstances that challenge our peaceful lives and spirits.
Jesus promises, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt. 5). The Lord calls us into His loving arms so He can heal our wounded hearts.
Jesus is the believers’ role model for discerning faith and grief. (John 11). When Jesus saw Mary and Martha anguish over the death of their brother Lazarus, He wept. Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet He allowed Himself to feel and express the depths of human sorrow.
We take comfort in our knowledge and belief that Jesus has experienced all of our pain, including loss, rejection, betrayal, and death. As our Savior and Redeemer, He took all our sins to the cross and forgives us when we ask forgiveness. As our Good Shepherd, He leads us safely through “the valley of the shadow of death.” (Psalm 23).
Faith in Christ does not prevent grief in believers when a loved one and fellow believer passes away, but it infuses our grief with hope! For believers in Christ, death is a passage to eternal life (John 5). We experience death to sin and are gifted eternal salvation through Jesus. Paul said, “To live in Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1). He also said, “I want you to know what will happen to Christians who die so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. Since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back all the Christians who have died with Jesus.” (1 Thes. 4).
Grief can and may affect our thinking, behavior, emotions, health, and eventually, relationships with others. We can and may experience indigestion, lack of appetite, sleeplessness, among so many physical and emotional responses. Reaching out to friends, joining a prayer group, or asking a pastor or Christian Faith counselor for assistance can and may help us work through the grieving process.
How do we manage to adjust to the new environment without our loved one who has died or departed in some way? How can we manage to cope with the ever-present memories of our loved one, make obvious lifestyle changes, or form new relationships? We find the answers as time passes and recovery progresses. The Lord will show us His timing and His direction as we seek Him.
Here are three steps to recovery
Grieve – Though grief is bitter, we must let sorrow run its natural course. Isaiah 53 describes Jesus as “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Denying or repressing pain may lead to emotional problems.
Believe – We need to put our faith in God’s promises, trusting that our Heavenly Father knows best and that His understanding is perfect. Isaiah 55 states, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Receive – God desires to give us comfort, but we must reach out and accept it. Through prayer and meditation on His Word, we can find a place in God’s presence where He will wrap His arms around us as a loving father would console a concerned child.
Merciful Lord, how mysterious are Your judgments and Your will beyond understanding. We are troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; dejected, but not destroyed. Your grace in Christ is all we need, for Your power is greatest when we are weak. In these dark hours strengthen us by Your Word and Sacrament, and grant us Your abiding presence in the midst of what we cannot understand. Take into Your care those whose hearts are heavy with sorrow and grief, and lead them to look to You for confidence and strength as they face the future. Sustain them with Your comforting love, and finally receive them and us into glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
– Credits to Scripture, Martin Luther’s teaching, the Christian Broadcast Network series on Managing Grief and life’s experiences.