When we come to the mountain of grief—whether it’s the passing of a loved one, the end of a marriage, infertility or miscarriage, a broken friendship, the death of a dream, or the termination of a career—questions fill our minds, and we wonder whether we’ll ever get through the grief and get to a place of acceptance.
Grief is a natural process we must go through after a loss, but if we learn to maintain a biblical perspective, we can keep it from overshadowing our lives.
In John 11:1-44, we see a case study in grief. Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus as much as anyone—He enjoyed being with them. But being loved by Jesus doesn’t exempt you from sickness or death—of yourself or someone you care about.
When Jesus heard the news about Lazarus’ sickness, He didn’t come immediately because He had another plan—to perform His greatest miracle ever. But the family didn’t understand that.
Those days of waiting for Jesus must have been filled with anxiety and frustration for Mary and Martha, even as other friends came to offer help and comfort (John 11:18–19).
They were confused. Where was He? What could be more important than the life-threatening illness of His friend? And when their brother died, what could Jesus do then? It was too late.
There’s an important truth in this for all of us: our faith is put to the test whenever we ask the Lord to heal a loved one and He doesn’t. Do we still believe God loves us and wants what’s best for us? Can we go on with faith for the future, without our loved one, declaring the greatness of our God?
Martha was angry with Jesus. His delay was inexcusable. She couldn’t understand why He waited so long. She never doubted Jesus’s power to heal, but in that moment of grief, she doubted His compassion and goodness.
There’s another important truth to consider here: if you’re angry with God because He didn’t heal or save your loved one from death, it’s okay to be angry. Pour it out to God; He can take it.
But keep this in mind as you’re going through the process of grief: God didn’t save your loved one from death not because He isn’t good and gracious and loving, but because He is in the process of glorifying Himself through the death of your loved one. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, Isaiah 55:9 says. What is a mystery to us is perfectly understood by Him—and will be understood by us someday.
Because everyone grieves differently, offering comfort cannot be systematized. Anyone who approaches grief that way sounds more like a robot spitting out preprogrammed platitudes than a compassionate person searching for the right words to say.
After spending countless hours with others who have lost loved ones, as well as experiencing loss in my own life and reading widely about grief, I’ve developed some practical help for offering comfort to those who grieve.
Give Voice to Your Emotions
Sorrow can cast you into a pit of despair, tempting you to “check out” into an attitude of indifference, where you live in a comatose-like existence rather than as a fully engaged human being. Or, if the pit is deep enough, you might be tempted to “check out” for good—to end your life. That’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Suicide is never the answer. You can avoid both extremes by giving full voice to your emotions. In Psalm 120:1 the psalmist declared, “In my trouble, I cried to the Lord and He answered me”—not necessarily immediately, but eventually.
Remember Simple Truths and Practices
It’s hard to pray when your heart has been ripped from your chest. But you need to pray, to go to the One who can make you whole. If you can’t form the words of a prayer, then pray the Psalms or the book of Lamentations. Once you’ve prayed, then praise. David, after he cried out “How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 13:1) also sang to the Lord for His gracious bounty (Psalm 13:6). Praise lifts your spirit by turning your eyes off yourself and placing them on the Giver of life.
Once you’ve prayed and praised, claim God’s promises from His Word and remind yourself of simple truths. And always remember what Jesus told Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25). 2 Corinthians 5:8: “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord.
Involve Others in Your Grief
Reach out. Ask for help. In our church, we have support groups like GriefShare specifically designed to help you through the grieving process and to remind you that you are not alone.
Remember, the only person who believes you ought to isolate yourself, retreat into your shell, and disconnect from other people—especially fellow church members—is Satan. His plan to destroy you begins with isolating you (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Eat, Dress, and Sleep
When we have been shocked by the reality of death, we often forget to take care of our physical needs. We are spiritual beings with spiritual needs, but we are also human beings with human needs which can’t be neglected during the grieving process.
Hurting people often look for someone to blame for their loss or for their continued grief: a doctor, a family member, a drunk driver, a church.
When you are grieving, God gives you an infusion of grace to help heal the pain of your loss. But when you choose to blame others for your loss, your bitterness neutralizes that supernatural grace and prevents you from ever healing (Hebrews 12:15).
That is why forgiving others who may have played a role in the loss you are experiencing helps you far more than it helps the one who has hurt you.
Jesus Christ is the only One who can truly comfort your heartache, mend your broken heart, and help you begin walking the path to acceptance.