I experienced the greatest pain of my life in the loss of my wife. I have mourned and I have grieved. At times, I continue to mourn and grieve. Loss is not something you “get over.” Instead, you must learn to live with it. Of course, the most intense time of struggle occurs in the weeks and months immediately after the loss.
When you experience the loss of a loved one, people try to console you through different means. Some hug, others talk, and still others sit with you in silence.
No matter the expression, all consolation falls into two categories: 1) Consolation intending to support your mourning, 2) Consolation attempting to end your mourning. One approach assumes mourning is good while another assumes mourning is bad.
Biblically speaking, to mourn is not to lose hope. Further, to grieve is not to despair.
We must not confuse sorrow with a lack of faith. In fact, expressing our deepest emotions of pain can be a Christ-like activity.
John 11:35 reminds us that “Jesus Wept.” The overflow of His emotions demonstrated the love He had for his dear friend Lazarus (v. 36). But He did not lose hope or faith. On the contrary, He supplied a foretaste of our greatest hope –eternal life- in raising Lazarus from the dead.
In the same way, our mourning and grieving can be Christ exalting when it draws out a longing for the return of Christ and the consummation of His kingdom. The bitter pain in our hearts can serve to whet our appetite for eternity. Perhaps that’s why Paul reminds believers that we do not grieve as those who “have no hope” (I Thess. 4:13). Likewise, Jesus ascribes blessing to “those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4).
What we must avoid, however, is allowing our circumstances to numb our affections for Christ’s return and thus cause our faith to decrease. Perhaps that is what Martha was experiencing in the loss of her beloved Lazarus. When mourning turns to despair, grieving souls must be reminded that, as Jesus told Martha, “if you believed you would see the glory of God” (John 11:40).
Then next time you approach someone experiencing loss, don’t attempt to end their mourning, rather help them redeem it. Here are some suggestions:
- Show your support by mourning with them. Be present and be listening.
- Don’t try to explain reasons for the loss. Instead, acknowledge and agree with the pain.
- Point to the hope of Christ not only in the future, but in the present. He alone can fully empathize with our present pain.