Grief over a loss happens far more often than when a literal death occurs.
I can attest to the anguish and pain that comes in the wake of the death of a loved one. But there are many other times in my life where mourning and sorrow have welled up within me. There can be seasons or situations that cause deep sorrow—grief in various forms.
A loss of any kind can bring about some manner of pain. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to give ourselves permission to grieve a situation that doesn’t bear the same weight as death. It seems unjustifiable to grieve when we consider how life could be so much worse.
As much as I wanted to be overcome by hope, all I could think of were the hundreds of thousands of people who went into the hospital due to COVID-19 and didn’t return home. I wept when my aunt told me she was taking my uncle to the hospital, because he was unable to breathe. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t focus. All I could do was cry. I was so afraid of losing him, and I certainly didn’t want to be the one to say that aloud.
The news that he would be discharged to finish his road of recovery at home was unbelievable. A true miracle. I’m beyond grateful for the time we continue to have with my uncle. My world wouldn’t be the same without him, and I certainly should tell him that more often.
I keep trying to talk myself out of the pain and sorrow that I feel. But even with the blessing of life comes a new current reality for my uncle. His road to recovery will be much longer than he ever anticipated. There are many stressors that come along with any sort of health crisis, and my family is experiencing many of them. I see the pressure, pain, loss, and uncertainty about whether life will ever get back to normal. I also feel guilty for experiencing any kind of grief, knowing that so many others are mourning more than the difficulties of a season but the loss of a loved one.
Nevertheless, in the same way we would never inflict emotional bypassing on another person, we must resist the tendency to do it to ourselves.
It’s far more “acceptable” to make space for grief in our lives when it’s related to literal death, but setting these kinds of limits on acceptable grief is harmful. The bible is full of people being honest with God, even when their pain and loss seemed less weighty than death itself.
Regardless of your reason for grieving—change in physical health, relationships, life seasons, career, or unmet expectation—we should invite Jesus to meet us in this pain. He will.
Grief is an important aspect of the human experience and we should stop trying to simply move past it.
Grief Is Not the Enemy of Faith
This is the definition of grief. The list of reasons any person would experience deep sorrow is long. Allowing yourself to grieve is not the opposite of faith. Nowhere in scripture does it instruct us to trade grief for faith. One does not mean the absence of the other.
You can be in a place of deep sorrow and still be a person filled with faith.
Job is such a great example of someone who doesn’t minimize his grief. I don’t know many people who look at everything Job lost and think, hey, at least you didn’t lose your life. Yet we do this to ourselves.
But Job doesn’t hold back his grief. He and so many of the psalmists are honest with God about the deep pain and sorrow they experienced. Job could have feigned a posture of thankfulness for the things he continued to have. He could have woken up each morning and made a list of everything he still had, like breath in his lungs.
Yet, we read such different conversations in the bible between people in grief and God. I don’t assume these people lacked faith.
Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
Your faith doesn’t always demand for you to remember all the good God has done in your life in every moment, so that you will minimize the pain and sorrow you’re currently enduring.
The bible shows us that there’s a place for every kind of emotion to be felt and expressed. This doesn’t mean we are to stay there forever. But it also doesn’t mean painful and ugly emotions are off limits.
You can grieve with every manner of sorrow and pain. It doesn’t call your faith into question. Your faith is not less because you allow yourself to grieve.
Grief and Hope Can Exist Together
We are complex beings, a true testament to our Creator. It’s possible for you to be in a very deep state of grief as you miss the days that were, but also eagerly await the days ahead.
Grief and hope can coexist.
The gospel holds in tension the victory won in Jesus and the longing to see redemption fully played out in our world. We can step into the experience of deep loss while holding on to the hope that things will get better.
We have a real and present hope that continues to live within us daily. While you are grieving, you may also be filled with the hope that Jesus will bring you the comfort you need.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
In the fullness of your grief, you can equally be filled with hope. This is the mystery of the gospel. While you are very much aware of your present reality, you are just as much aware of the promises and assurance you have in Jesus.
This doesn’t mean you need to bypass your grief to arrive at hope. Psalm 119:50 says, “This is my comfort in affliction.”
We tend to rush past grief, so that we can find hope and comfort. Yet Jesus will bring you hope in the place of sorrow. It doesn’t matter what type of grief you are enduring.
Grief reminds us that pain and sorrow are not natural. Furthermore, they will not always be our reality.
Don’t allow guilt to stop you from grieving. Making lists of reasons you should be filled with joy instead are not necessary. No matter your reason for grieving, let it lead you into the arms of your Savior.