How Should a Christian Respond to Grief?
- Sophia Bricker Contributing Writer
- 2021 9 Jun
Losing a loved one is painful. Life seems to slam to a halt and the grieving person left in death’s wake may feel that the sun should no longer rise to bring in new days without their loved one. Ordinary tasks become challenging and dealing with the roller coaster emotional ride of sorrow is exhausting. No one is immune from grief’s long-reaching touch, not even Christians.
While the world offers advice about grief and coping with the loss of a loved one, only the Bible gives real hope and answers. Not only does Scripture include examples of human grief, but God’s Word also provides principles about grieving.
While many Christians and churches have been unable to successfully assist individuals, who are hurting from loss, the Lord does not condemn the grieving process. Neither is He afraid to tackle the complexity of human sorrow and pain. Even amid the grief of losing a loved one, it is comforting to know that the Lord is present and cares.
Grieving Is Allowed
Many churches lack a ministry for the bereaved and hurting, which leaves grieving Christians with no outlet or guidance in dealing with their loss.
Sadly, bereaved individuals, whether intentionally or not, are even sometimes made to feel less spiritual because of their sorrow.
Despite such reactions from churches, the Bible includes numerous examples of sorrow and allows the grieving process.
There are multiple examples of grief in Scripture. One of the major examples, which most people turn to in times of pain and sorrow is the Book of Job.
In Old Testament fashion, Job put on mourning clothes and spread ashes over his head to signify his grief to others (Job 2:8). His friends arrived to sit and mourn with Job for an entire week (Job 2:11-13).
Another major example of grief in Scripture is found during the ministry of Jesus. When Jesus met with Mary after He received the news of Lazarus’ death, He did not scold His grieving friend.
Instead, Scripture states, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33, NIV). Once Jesus saw the tomb where Lazarus was buried, the Gospel of John records that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35, NIV).
Jesus Christ, the King above all Kings who created all things, was moved to tears because of the painful sorrow He saw among His friends. He did not denounce their weeping but wept alongside them.
The Bible does instruct believers that they are not to grieve as the world does (1 Thessalonians 4:13). However, this verse does not say that believers are exempt from the grieving process, but rather affirms that followers of Christ do have hope even amid the pain of losing loved ones.
As was shown in the example of Mary and Martha, their firm belief in the resurrection did not negate the grief they felt over their brother’s death (John 11:17-32).
Jesus affirmed the truth of the resurrection and eternal life for those who believe, but He also took the time to grieve alongside His friends (John 11:25-26, 35).
As is shown from these biblical examples, grieving is allowed. God never condemns a person for mourning the loss of their loved one. In fact, the Lord Christ wept with His friends while also pronouncing the comforting truth of eternal life, which is found in Him.
There Is Hope
For believers in Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is hope for a future with no death. If a loved one was a believer in Christ, then there is the promise of seeing them again in Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Even if their loved one was not a believer, the wonderful hope of a future with Jesus is still present for the grieving Christian (Philippians 1:23). With Jesus, there is always hope.
In the future, Scripture explains how in the New Heaven and New Earth, there will no longer be any sorrow or death (Revelation 21:3-5). People will no longer have to endure the painful process of seeing their loved ones die and living without them.
Death itself will no longer have any power and will be defeated once for all (1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Revelation 20:14). God, Himself, will wipe away His children’s tears on that day (Revelation 21:4).
Not only is there the glorious future and hope of the eternal kingdom, but God also promises to be close to those who are hurting. Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NIV).
Unlike anyone else, God is always present with His followers (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). Instead of only offering words of encouragement, He is the Good Shepherd who walks with believers through the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4; John 10:11).
Even though it is common to feel alone during the grieving process, believers can rest assured that they are never alone. The Lord Himself is walking with them in their sorrow.
Ask Hard Questions
Grief can often be complicated and difficult. Oftentimes a grieving Christian will wonder why death had to occur. God does not push away such questions or complexities of sorrow. Instead, in the Bible, there are examples of individuals who brought their questions and pain to the Lord.
The Book of Job demonstrates that it is okay to ask God difficult questions. Job certainly inquired of the Lord with difficult questions (Job 7:20). Although God did not explain Job’s suffering, He did provide Job with an answer based on His mightiness and power (Job 38-41).
Likewise, David was not afraid to bring his pain and sorrow to the Lord. In Psalm 6:3, David describes his distress and asks, “How long, O LORD, how long?” (NIV).
Detailing his sorrow and pain, he tells God, “I am weary from groaning; all night I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes fail from grief; they grow dim because of all my foes” (Psalm 6:6-7, NIV).
David did not gloss over his grief, but rather prayed about his pain and inquired of the Lord.
Grieving Christians can and should be willing to take their questions to the Lord. He might not answer in the way expected or explain the reason for one’s grief. However, He is willing to listen and respond to His followers’ hard questions.
Understand that God Is Still Working
God does not just provide a future hope and present comfort but can also redemptively use a person’s grief and loss. In Paul’s introduction to his second letter to the Corinthians, he explains how God had provided comfort for him, which overflows through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:4-5).
Specifically, the apostle said that God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4, NIV). Such comfort from the Lord is not just for the benefit of those in trouble but is also intended to be shared with others.
Having received comfort during times of sorrow and pain, Christians who have experienced grief are better able to understand other bereaved individuals and offer them the hope and comfort they received from the Lord.
Unlike those who have yet to experience the loss of a loved one, those who have experienced such sorrow are more equipped to minister to others in similar situations. Paul recognized this and told the Corinthians that his suffering and comfort, along with his fellow workers, were for their benefit (2 Corinthians 1:6).
Although seasons of grief, no matter how long, are difficult and painful, God is still at work during those times. He can strengthen a person’s faith and relationship with Himself as well as equip a bereaved individual for future ministry to other hurting hearts.
As Christian missionary, Lilias Trotter, conveyed in a poem in her 1895 book, “He who suffers most has most to give” (Parables of the Cross: Facsimile Edition).
Biblical Lessons in Grief
Losing a loved one is hard. Christians are not exempt from grief and will be impacted by the death of those they love. The process of grief is not something to be ashamed of or avoided since mourning is a biblical response.
However, a bereaved Christian is not without hope or comfort. The promise of Heaven and the future eternal kingdom stands as a shining beacon for the future while Jesus’ constant presence provides comfort for the present.
Furthermore, God is still at work amid the pain of grief and will not allow the sorrow of His loved ones to be for nothing.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.