This is not a post that will take you through the stages of grief. There are many posts and resources out there that will tell you about denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is important to have this knowledge and know if you are a grieving person you will go through all of those stages, maybe not in that order and you will probably experience each one more than once. Just when you thought you were over being angry or depressed it will come back. This post is to focus on how a Christian is to grieve in a way that helps you become more like Christ and will help the world around you.
In my work as a chaplain when I encounter someone who is grieving my goal is to help them work to one goal. I want them to be able to use their grief to help someone else. So, if you are reading this and you have had a terrible unexpected loss. Maybe you lost a child or a young one far too early, or maybe you had finally gotten married and you lost a spouse, and it is fresh. I get it. It is alright to be annoyed at what I am saying. I also see this as a step two. If you are not ready for it. Come back, next week, next month or next year. But, ultimately you must return to this concept at some point.
photo credit calebwilde.com
Here are some words from the Apostle Paul. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 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. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.[a] 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort (II Corinthians 1:3-7).”
Paul was suffering persecution and pain. He tells the Corinthian church that he has gone through great pain and grief for their benefit. Not only him, but his traveling companions as well.
How do I grieve in a way that helps other people?
- Praise the God of all comfort (v.3-4). First he praised God and appeals to His power and grace. God has given you an opportunity to grow. Grief is hard, and of course you want your loved one to come back. You wish they didn’t die. You are angry and maybe even fighting with God as to why this had to happen. That is ok. That is healthy. Truly, God is the only one who can handle you like this. Often times we are angry and fighting with God, but we don’t want to admit it because we are afraid God will strike us dead or something. The truth is He already knows and by not letting him know just how bad you are hurting you are only prolonging the grief. Telling him how mad you are is healthy, because some how you must get back to a place of praise. I am not saying you will stop being mad at God and only praise, you will probably go back and forth, but He can take it. But, fight for your faith through the grieving process.
- Seek God’s comfort, knowing Jesus understands our pain (v. 5). It seems simple enough but look at what it says. We share in Christ’s affliction. What makes being a Christian different than any other faith is we don’t follow a god that is far off and doesn’t understand us. We serve a God who got involved. Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life, died a perfect death, and for that reason, we can never claim He doesn’t understand us. He was tempted in every way we have been tempted yet remained without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus experienced grief and loss. Jesus understands your emotions, feelings and anger. He chose to not be tempted into sinning, but that doesn’t mean he was exempt from the pain of this life. For that very reason He is the God we can relate to.
- God wants to use your pain for someone else’s gain. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer (v.7). Flag on the play. This is where the careful reader catches on and calls foul. Obviously, this passage is dealing with a pain Paul and his companions were dealing with in regards to persecution for their efforts in moving the Gospel. But, make no mistake about it. Paul’s pain was very real, they despaired of even life it’s self (v.8). They thought they had received the sentence of death (v. 9a). But that was to make them rely on God (v. 9b). So, How do I grieve in a way that helps other people? The truth is people aren’t very interested in your success testimony. They don’t really care that much about how God has blessed you. It isn’t going to get them to cross the line from disbelief to belief. People watch you. They watch how you handle adversity. They watch how you handle yourself when you loose. They watch when things are not going your way, do you still know who and whose you are? That is what matters. When it all falls apart, does your faith get you through. I am not saying that you act out a part and pretend life is ok. I am saying when it all melts away, you can’t think straight and you can’t pray long enough to say more than, “Help me God!” What does it look like? Success and God changing your life to be productive is exciting and it has its place, but your remaining family members and friends left behind after the surprising or tragic death of your loved one, need to see how God is using it to make you more like Him. Right now you can’t fathom it. You can’t comprehend that God would use your pain to help someone else. You don’t even feel like a Christian, you are angry with God, your faith doesn’t even feel real right now, but trust me. God wants to take these vital moments and mold you into something more solid, more useful and more sold out for him. When others watch they won’t fault you for falling apart as you grieve, but they will notice if you stay faithful to the one you pledged your life to.
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