Does the Bible offer practical suggestions on how to deal with grief?
Grief is a deep and powerful emotion caused by the loss of someone or something we held dear. Grief is the price we pay for loving and engaging with life. Every emotionally healthy person will experience seasons of grief because death and loss are a part of this transitory life. We can also experience grief over events that others may not consider worth grieving, such as a job loss, a pet’s death, or the sale of a childhood home. We may have to grieve privately for those losses that remain unspoken, such as abortion, loss of virginity, or betrayal by a spouse. It is sin’s presence in the world that makes grief a common experience. And, even though God never intended the human heart to suffer grief, He included instructions and promises in His Word to help us through it.
“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Psalm 34:18
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6–7
Peter felt irritation and grief when Jesus asked him three times.. “He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” John 21:17
Peter grieved at the memory of how he had betrayed the Christ (Luke 22:61–62). Paul was grieved over the unrepentant sin in the churches he loved (2 Corinthians 12:21). And Jesus grieved over the hardness of people’s hearts in refusing to accept Him as the Son of God (Mark 3:5). As His crucifixion approached, Jesus was deeply grieved at the impending separation He would experience from His Father. (Mark 14:33–36)
We can grieve the Holy Spirit by our actions and attitudes (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit takes the initiative to transform us into godly people (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:29). But He does not make us robots. We still have the freedom to obey or disobey Him. When we act in carnal, fleshly ways, we grieve the Spirit who lives inside us.
Death is always a season of grief for those left behind. Even so, Paul writes that Christians do not grieve the death of a fellow believer in the same way that unbelievers grieve.
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14
Paul reminds us to think of the death of a Christian as “sleep,” because it is a temporarystate. Our grief can be temporary as well. Although we are sorrowful that we won’t share any more earthly experiences with our departed Christian loved ones, we can also look forward to an eternity with them. Grief and hope can coexist when we know the destiny of the ones we love. That knowledge helps us move on, eager for the day when the Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
“For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4