What does the Bible say about grief?
I was standing in my kitchen with my little sister on speaker phone expressing how frustrated and hurt I felt over something that I had experienced a few months before. As I was clanging around pots and pans, she listened to me ramble about how I just couldn't seem to push past that experience and jump head first into a similar one. It still hurt.
When I finally stopped talking, she said, "I think you need to grieve this loss."
Until that moment, I hadn't realized I had lost something.
Grief feels like a big, heavy word. If you're anything like me, I lean towards looking for silver linings rather than giving myself space to admit that something was lost.
Maybe, even this blog title made you squirm and you thought to yourself this one isn't for you. But if you're honest, like that day when I stood in my kitchen, you've had to grieve something or someone.
Part of being in a fallen world means experiencing loss and grief. Part of being a follower of Jesus means experiencing redemption and restoration.
What does the Bible say about grief?
"Jesus wept," is a simple, powerful two word verse that reminds us that the Son of God Himself experienced grief. We actually see God experience and express grief throughout the Bible. Jesus was named a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3) The way we act can grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:29-32). God was grieved in the very beginning when He saw how wicked humans had become (Genesis 6:6).
Grief is a part of living in a fallen world. It is not a weakness. We all experience levels of loss and need to grieve those losses. In our grief, we are met by Jesus, the man of sorrows, who has suffered for us and knows our suffering.
If you ever feel alone in your grief, remember God grieves.
Grieve with God
Some of us might feel a pressure to seem strong or not process or express our grief. The Bible reveals to us that God is our strength and He invites us to express our grief to Him.
Throughout the Psalms we see people cry out to God through their grief.
"How long, Oh Lord, will you forget me forever?"(Psalm 13:1) The Psalms show us this uninhibited type of prayer where all of our emotions are welcomed by God and our prayers are heard. In one of my favorite passages, Hannah cries out to God in her deep anguish (or grief) and her time in prayer is so emotional people mistake her for being drunk (1 Samuel 1). Along with many other examples, we can be certain God desires for us to express our grief to Him.
Grief is temporary
When I began researching the word grief in the Bible, something fascinating caught my attention. The word "grief" is used a lot in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, it's incredibly infrequent. As the literary nerd I am, I knew it couldn't be by mistake.
W.L Walker wrote this,
"The less frequency in the New Testament of words denoting "grief" is significant. Christ came "to comfort all that mourn--to give a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Christians, however, cannot but feel sorrow and be moved by grief, and it is to be noted that in both the Old Testament and New Testament, God Himself is said to be susceptible to grief."
Basically, grief is still present and a part of our lives, but it's significantly decreased since the coming of Jesus. This points us to the second coming, where grief will altogether disappear (Revelation 21:4).
The KJV dictionary defines grief as "the pain of mind produced by loss." Romans 12:2 tells us that we can be transformed by the renewal of our minds, including that pain in our minds otherwise known as grief.
We are promised redemption and God is restoring everything. I also think He's in the business of restoring things right now. It reminds me of a photo from the book "How (not) to read the Bible."
It shows the entire timeline of the Bible and shows we are in Act 5: the church and kingdom of God are present, we're on the mission to share the gospel with all nations, sin and suffering are present, but they continually decrease as we go from "glory to glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18) and approach Act 6: redemption completed and the new heavens and new earth.
If you are in a season of grieving right now, know that when you zoom out and look at the big picture, we are close to the end. Sin and suffering are decreasing, grief is decreasing, and the Glory of God is increasing.