Good Grief (2)
Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. Acts 9.39
Weeping with those who weep
Peter understood that there are appropriate times for expressing sorrow and for grieving. The Christian life is not all happiness and fun, although that’s the impression many churches seem determined to give. Peter knew that sin, for example, is nothing to be happy about, especially when it rears its ugly head in your own soul, fomenting rebellion against the God Who died for you. When we consider the sin that remains within us, we should weep and cry before the Lord, seeking mercy and grace to help us repent of all our wicked ways.
But Peter also experienced sorrow, as we all do, in the loss of loved ones. The reality of death remains one of the evils we must contend with as we pursue the art of living for our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Peter entered that room where Dorcas lay dead, the weeping and sorrowing of those women must have affected him deeply. How tenderly he came among them, gladly listening as they talked of her many virtues and showed him the beautiful garments she had made. Who of us could have failed to join in their weeping, as they talked about the enormity of their loss? Only a fool would have rebuked those grieving women, insisting they should be happy in their friend’s “home-going.” Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, partly because of the sin of unbelief that hung like a shroud on everyone present, and partly because of the sorrow He felt with His friends Mary and Martha, and in His own loss.
Sorrowing for loved ones
Christians grieve for the loss of our loved ones. We’ll miss them and all the things we loved about them. We regret no longer being able to enjoy their company, and sorrow will overwhelm us at the thought they may have suffered, or we may not have told them, as clearly as we should have, how much we loved them.
If we try to keep ourselves from grieving at the loss of loved ones, pasting on some smiley face of spiritual superiority, we will stifle a holy affection rising in our hearts, and fail to realize something intrinsically and wonderfully human.
We sorrow for the loss of loved ones, and that sorrowing can last a long while. Years after the loss of a loved one, we may yet be piqued to tears by some sudden memory or special reminder. There is nothing wrong in this, and such grieving is nothing for which we should feel shame or doubt.
Grieving for loved ones reminds us that death is a tragedy. Death is not the way it’s supposed to be. When we love someone, and that love becomes a vital part of our lives, it is wrong, and unnatural, to have that love wrested from us by grisly death. Grief makes us intolerant of death and impatient for eternal life and joy.
Hope in the midst of sorrow
But sorrow for the loss of loved ones must not be the only or even the commanding affection. If our loved one was a believer, we can certainly have the assurance that we will see him or her again one day, and our fellowship and love will be renewed without end. If our loved one was not a believer, we can still fall back on the grace and mercy of the Lord. We cannot possibly know what may have transpired between our loved one and the Lord at the very moment of death. Let us mix our sorrow, therefore, with hope. And even if this loved one is to be lost forever, we can rest in the hope that, in the new heavens and the new earth, even this terrible loss will somehow make sense, and we will be able to be at peace.
Grieving for the loss of loved ones is good grief; and as we go through this experience, we will eventually be able to help others when they, like the friends of Dorcas, are faced with the loss of one dear and close to them. Grieving reminds us of the ravages of sin, and can encourage us to hate sin and all its effects.
But grieving with Godly grief can also nurture love in our hearts, increase thanksgiving for God’s sovereign power, strengthen hope for the glory of God, and embolden us to face the daily evil in our lives with a renewed commitment to tackling it as best we can in the Lord.
We must not stifle our grief when grief is appropriate. We are called to weep with those who weep and to share in the suffering of our fellow believers (Eccl. 3.4; Rom. 12.15; 1 Cor. 12.26), especially when that suffering relates to the loss of a loved one. Such good grief can strengthen our hearts for life’s great challenges and renew us in love, gratitude, hope, and courage.
1. Why do we say that death is “not the way it’s supposed to be”?
2. How do people try to cope with the death of a loved one? Are there any problems with any of these coping mechanisms?
3. Suggest some ways that believers can comfort one another at times of loss.
Next steps – Conversation: How do you deal with the loss of a loved one? How do your friends handle such difficult situations? Ask around and see what you can learn. Be prepared to come alongside someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, to affirm their grieving and provide the comforting presence of the Lord.
T. M. Moore
This is part 7 of a multi-part series on Keeping the Heart. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.