Loss, grief, mourning – these don’t sound like words that describe the joyful Christian’s experience, nor what one would assume the Bible has in store for believers. But if you scan the verses below you will see that the Bible does recognize the value of grieving a loss, whether for a loved one who has passed away, or for something more temporal.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. Psalm 126:5
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. Ecclesiastes 7:2
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Romans 12:15
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
The Value of Mourning
Ecclesiastes 7:2 provides us with a picture of going to a funeral instead of a party. It is a sobering reality, and the profundity of life confronts us, causing us to give weight to that which is weighty. There are things that we take for granted every day and suddenly, when they are lost, we wish that we had savored them more. Mourning teaches us the value of these things, causing us to savor them more. It may even teach us to give thanks as a way of life (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Romans 12:15 warns us not to be dismissive of the profundity that people are feeling in their loss. We need to weep with them and not try to console them with platitudes that seek to cheer them up but take them away from the important process of grieving. Proverbs 25:20 tells us that to do so is inflammatory and cruel.
Do Not Be Disheartened
Nevertheless, there is always hope for the Christian. The New Covenant is built on promise – and believing a Promiser who we are assured is benevolent and faithful brings solid hope. Although we grieve, we can only grieve with abandon because we are assured of the promise of bright days ahead. This is not wishful thinking, and neither is it self-delusion, optimism, or positive thinking.
I Thessalonians 4:13 speaks of hope in our grieving. Hope in the Bible is never wishful thinking, but is the anticipation of a certainty. It is not “I hope I get a job today,” or “I hope it doesn’t rain,” but something more like “I hope Christmas is coming,” or “I hope the sun comes up.” Christmas is indeed coming and the sun is definitely coming up. Biblical hope anticipates what is on its way. This is the hope of the Christian – and it paints a bright backdrop to the depth of our grief.
Grief is Followed by Joy
Psalm 30:5 provides us with a description of the aftermath of grief, mourning, and tears. Grief well-done awakes in joy. God’s way with us is not simply to take away our mourning or neutralize it, but it is to capitalize on it and turn it into dancing.
Psalms 126:5 assures us that when we sow good things and the sowing costs us dearly, it will nevertheless bring rejoicing later. This is most dramatically depicted in the missionary who has labored hard and with little result or has perhaps even experienced the loss of life. There are many missionary stories of great harvest that occurs in the wake of such loss.
In Matthew 5:4 we likewise see mourning over what is deplorable, and especially the ill-treatment of others, the dismissal of the things of the Lord, and the truth being trodden in the streets. Yet this mourning will ultimately bring comfort, for this is the new economy of the new Kingdom that displaces the norms of this fading world. And that “comfort” here refers to the promise of the Holy Spirit. Mourning definitely has its place in the life of the truly joyful Christian.
Christian Counseling to Work through Your Grief
People often have a network of empathetic listeners and I recommend that you seek to find one. But if you would like added support and guidance in grieving thoroughly and well, or if you lack a support network, a Christian counselor can walk with you in your grief in a way that provides that well-founded assumption of hope. Give our office a call to find out how Christian counseling can help you in your grief.