If you’ve ever dealt with grief, you’re likely familiar with the phrase “it comes in waves.” One moment you’re smiling as a memory crosses your mind, and in the next moment tears flow uncontrollably when “that” song plays on the radio.
Whatever our loss may be, it becomes a part of our story. It’s a storyline we certainly would never ask for, but are never immune to. God never promised us this life would be free from trials. In fact, He was pretty clear that we would. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33, emphasis added).
The thing is, if we’re not careful we can get stuck. It’s an incredibly tough place to be—stuck between the pull to move forward and the need for some sense of "normalcy," whatever that means now, and still grieving that loss. It’s hard not to let go, but the weight of it can be, at times, unbearable.
I have dealt with my fair share of loss and grief, and the truth is you can never prepare for it. No matter how strong you are, it still punches you in the gut and takes the wind right out of you. I have said goodbye to loved ones, didn’t get a chance to say to goodbye to others, stared in disbelief when being told I no longer had a job, and ached at the loss of a dream.
More recently, I prayed for a friend who was never healed this side of heaven. A friend of mine from high school I hadn’t seen in several years but we still kept in touch often. She had overcome cancer just five years earlier, but this time it was back with a vengeance.
Exactly one month after receiving her official diagnosis of metastatic cancer, she was gone. She didn’t even get a chance to meet with her oncologist to go over a treatment plan. Half of that month was spent in and out of the hospital with complications.
I was intending to go visit her during one of those hospital stays though I knew the drive would take several hours. Unavoidably, a family obligation kept me from going and I felt terrible, but she understood.
A week later on a Monday I sent her a text message that was never answered. She died early that morning.
The guilt and the grief I felt ripped my stomach to shreds. Now what, God? I prayed. Many prayed. Why didn’t she receive help? Why didn’t you save her? This isn’t fair!
Maybe you can relate. If you profess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, rest assured that your faith will be tested at some point in time.
If you are familiar with singer-songwriter Hillary Scott, you have likely heard the song “Thy Will Be Done.” The second verse opens like this:
I know you’re good,
But this don’t feel good right now
Bingo. This didn’t feel good at all. How could she be gone? How could someone my age just… die?
However, what God has lovingly shown me through grief is that we can’t get stuck on that second line, the “not feeling good” part. Our story continues and the song goes on:
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you're God
And I am not
Thy will be done…
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
Our God is a good, good Father. As hard as it is to comprehend when you're in the thick of it, there is nothing we go through that's in vain and that doesn't pass through His hands first. That doesn't mean it's not hard. Like really hard. So hard, you're not sure you can put one foot in front of the other some moments. And despite the best intentions of those we love, often their words bring little to no comfort (look no further than the book of Job).
But… read these words from our Father, THE Comforter: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning," (Psalm 30:5b).
I used to think this meant a literal overnight thing, like a switch is just supposed to flip and boom, you're all better. But no. That's not it. It’s symbolic.
The “night” is a season, a period of time. It certainly may last many nights, even months; but that verse is a promise that God will change the season, the sun will rise back up, just like the sun sets and rises again every day. He will bring you back from the darkness if you let Him.
He doesn't exchange our mourning for joy—He transforms it. It's a process; one in which we must completely trust in Him to complete. Here is the best way to explain it that God laid on my heart:
"Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you," (John 16:20-22).
Oh, how I have longed for that joy in the midst of my trial. But we must not skip over two very important things on the way to joy: process the pain and learn from it, and cling to our eternal hope—Jesus! If anyone knows what we are suffering through, it’s Christ: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,”(Hebrews 4:15).
It’s in our trials when we grow and learn to be more like Christ, which is what He wants for us in the first place. "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ," (Philippians 3:8).
I have many friends who have gone through unspeakable grief and loss. At times, their words have been a comfort to me in my pain (2 Corinthians 1:4). Here are some of their words of healing:
“Unexpected memories jump into our lives daily. Some bring smiles and some bring tears. We are worn with saying that we look forward to our heavenly reunion, but we do (John 14:1-6). Until then, we thank God for that which cannot be taken away. Our memories cannot be taken away and God’s promises are sure!” – Chuck and Linda
“…trials for the believer are not just electives. They are core curriculum. Is the student superior to his master? Certainly not! Then take up your cross, oh Christian! The pathway may seem lingering and its burden heavy laden, but a crown awaits you above. We would never have chosen the path that we find ourselves on, but God is faithful and has fulfilled His promise to provide for us ‘grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16).” – Daniel
“Grief is different for everyone. My mother lost two sons this year and she reacted differently than I have in grieving my son for nine years now. I know this is true for me: I’m never going to be the same person I was before I came to know grief intimately. And that’s ok; I’m not supposed to be. There’s more stillness inside, more appreciation for the here-and-now, and there’s a different perspective on the purpose of all our lives. Most importantly, I know God in a way I could not otherwise have known Him—as a once grieving Father. A loving Father who knows my loss of a child, a son.” – Loma
. . .
Are you hurting? Do you wonder where God is in the midst of your pain?
The good news is that He is right where He’s always been—“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Let the words from our loving, understanding Father, who knows and sees our grieving hearts and wants to love us through it, comfort you and build you up into his everlasting joy. Lean into Him and trust that His plan is perfect and His purposes are sure.