Handling Grief Part 2
Jesus Understands the Pain of Loss and Grief
The death of one of Jesus’ closest friends, Lazarus, actually produced the shortest verse in the Bible. ‘When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11.35
Jesus had lost his own father sometime after the age of 12, exactly when we are not sure. With all the positive statements we have made, Jesus does not minimize the pain of grief. He does not whitewash over it, he can share in it intimately. And in this short story with the shortest verse in the Bible, we get it. Jesus understands grief. He, more than anyone, knows that death is conquered, but it still leaves widows, orphans and bereaved parents behind. At the cross there is a remarkable exchange where he makes preparation, and says to Mary, ‘Behold, your son!’ and to John, ‘Behold, your mother!’ Whatever else was being set up, Jesus understood the importance of close, trustworthy support at a time of grief.
If you were to ask anyone who grieves the death of a loved one, one of the things they feel is that they grieve alone, that no one really understands them. That is often true on a human level, but the liberating truth is that in our deepest pain, in those ceaseless seeping tears or in a tsunami of grief, Jesus has been there and understands it.
We read about Stephen’s martyrdom, and when he finally died, after a brutal and painful death, we read, ‘Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
In Philippians, the Apostle Paul notes that, ‘God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.’3 Paul was already sorrowful over those who had died, and he was grateful at that moment not get a double dose!
Grief and love are woven together. Our grief is only so intense because of how intense the love was. One of Jacob’s friends said to him, you would have been better off if you’d had a dad who beat you and never loved you, but your dad was so wonderful, so loving and so creative with memories, you will miss him like mad.
Joel and I were so close, whenever we spent time together working commercially in church settings or just having adventures, it was light and life and love for both of us. When one or the other had to travel five hours to return home, there would be the dull ache of temporary loss and a keen awareness of the sadness of parting. When Gill and I moved to America, it was a painful parting for each of our four children in different ways. If we feel that temporary parting so keenly, how much more shall we, and should we, miss those that Jesus takes from us.
Isaiah, in a well-known often-read passage, talks about an anointing for healing (binding up) the broken-hearted. And Psalms talks about saving the crushed in spirit. In this context, it is evident that sorrow and grief are to be expected and, actually, welcomed. Really? Yes, if he is to heal the broken-hearted, then expect tears. If he is to heal the crushed in Spirit, then expect tears. Tears can be either a symptom or a sign of grief without hope, or they can reflect real, deep even unimaginable loss, and yet with hope and a certainty about both the destination of our loved one and the certainty of our own healing.
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