I want to share with you what I have been learning about grief, but first, let me explain what I mean by learn.
There’s a place in the Bible where the word “learned” is repeated, but behind our one English word are two Greek words (Philippians 4:11-12). The first means, “I have learned it with my head,” and the second means, “I have become intimately acquainted with it.” In short, even the Bible tells us we can know something without really knowing it.
I want to share with you what I have been learning about grief, and I wanted you to understand that by “learn” I mean the second sense of the word. I write not out of a cold head, but a raw heart. The pain has lessened because of what I have discovered—not in a verse to silence my pain, but in the overall response to grief woven through God’s Word.
What Is Grief?
Let’s start by making sure we understand each other. I see grief as the natural human emotion to losing something we loved, whether that something was a someone, an experience, or an expectation. It’s always accompanied by tears, and leaves your heart feeling hot and swollen, then cold and numb.
Feelings aside, grief raises one question—a question that seems to taunt us in the midst of our tears: “Why?” Why did this happen? Why me? Why now?
Does the Bible give us an answer? Yes, it does. I discovered the wonder of the Bible through the wisdom of its answer. It doesn’t spit out a one-and-done response. The answer is dynamic, real, and personal, spoken by Someone who knows me, and who knows you.
It’s Ok to Ask, “Why?”
First, the Bible records all sorts of people asking the same thing in their grief: Job, Jeremiah, even Jesus on the cross, demand that God answer why he is putting them through it (Job 7:20; Jeremiah 12:1; Matthew 27:46)! Our minds grasp for equilibrium when sorrow engulfs our hearts. And the Bible says it’s okay to ask why.
Come and Cry
God’s response to our “Why” gets even better. We are welcomed to bring the full flood of our emotions upon our loving Friend, the Wonderful Counselor, who is also in fact, Almighty God. He tells us to pour our hearts out like water to him (Psalm 62:8). God doesn’t say, “Go spend your tears and you’ll feel better,” but instead, “bring them here to me.”
Of all the things that the God of the universe—the one who hung the moon and named the stars—could pay attention to, would you believe he cares to listen to you? To your hurting heart? In fact, he who holds back the ocean tide with his hand (Jeremiah 5:22), counts and collects your very tears, one by one. He treasures them, actually (Psalm 56:8).
But there’s more. The Bible tells us that our God is no stranger to pain. He looked at our misery and said, “I want to understand.” So he got off his throne and was born into our world where he experienced hunger, weariness, tears, and death (Philippians 2:5-8). The ancient books say he was a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
He entered our pain for empathy’s sake, but also to empty grief’s dregs so we wouldn’t have to drink it ourselves (Hebrews 2:17). God didn’t want pain to have the last word in his world. “I’m going to wipe all tears away,” he said (Revelation 21:4). But he knew that tears were only one symptom of a great disease that plagued the human soul. To dry up tears he would have to destroy their fount: sin and death. So he went to war with death, by letting it kill him on a cross, and overcame it when he rose from the dead.
The Bible says that Jesus Christ, God himself, resigned himself to the deepest agony imaginable because more than relief from grief, you needed forgiveness. Without your offenses being forgiven, God could not be your friend. He would only be your Judge; for if we’re honest, we’re not mere victims of pain, we contribute to it.
The Answer the Bible Won’t Give
Now here’s where the Bible gets a little hard. God is the Father of all comfort, so we expect his Word to comfort us. But God has a knack for looking beyond the simplistic answers we ask for, to answer our deeper need for eternal comfort.
God does not, in his Word, promise to give us precise answers to our particular “Why’s”. He gives many general answers as to why people suffer and grieve—but Job, and Jeremiah, and others did not get answers to their particular situations. God’s answer to their “why” was, “I’m God. Do you trust me? Do you believe I am good? Do you believe I am who I say I am? Do you know enough of me to leave the answer to the ‘why’ question alone?”
Makes the stomach turn a bit, doesn’t it? Oh how we long for resolve! That intentional sidestep of an answer only leaves us still holding our question.
When we come to the Bible in tears, we are faced with a crisis. We ask why, and that’s the one question the Bible is silent about. But sometimes silence itself speaks.
Will Jesus Be Enough in Your Grief?
One of my dearest friends, in a conversation about a loss we were mutually experiencing, said, “This is one of those painful times when God keeps asking me, is Jesus enough?” She got it.
That’s God’s answer to our “Why?”—Jesus.
I won’t tell you why you are bearing this particular grief, God says. “My thoughts and plans and purposes are skies higher than yours (Isaiah 55:8-9). Although I’ve let you into a very close relationship with me, you’re still going to have to remember, and to be ok with, me being God. Here’s what I’ll give you instead of the answers. I’ll tell you it’s alright to cry. And I love when my children cry to me. I’ve cried too, just so I could feel the pain with you. And I died so that the hurt wouldn’t destroy you. I died so that I would not be distant because of your sin, but close to you. Is this enough?”
God’s final answer to our question is, “Am I enough?”
In one of my most painful moments, I was terribly afraid to keep wading through the grief. “God, but what if…how will I keep on” and the echo of a hundred Scriptures ran through my mind as God said, “I’ll be there for you.” And that was enough.
The answer to our why is a Who. It’s God. God will be there. He’s done all he can to prove to us he loves us (John 3:16), even if pain shouts the opposite. The great question the Bible raises is, will he be enough for you—even if you never know the precise answer to your “why”?
Until these tears are wiped away,
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