It’s tempting to look down the long tunnel of the next twenty, thirty, forty years and think ‘How will I cope for all this time without my loved one?’ But Jesus explicitly tells us not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough trouble of its own (Mt 6.34). He promises us grace sufficient for each day (2Cor 12.9) and teaches us to come each day humbly depending on him for the needs of that day (Mt 6.11).
Since my dad passed away at the end of October I’ve been learning a lot about grieving. In God’s kindness I haven’t had a close family bereavement like this until now. I’ve watched others grieve; as a Pastor I’ve helped others in their grief. But this is the first time I’ve experienced the pain of being bereaved for myself. In no particular order, here are some lessons the Lord has been teaching me through this trial:
1. Christians do grieve. Paul gives believers theological truth about life and death in 1 Thessalonians 4.13 ‘that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.’ Christians don’t grieve for believers who have died in the same way as unbelievers grieve—but we do still grieve. Grief is still grief—it hurts keenly. The pain is greatly eased by knowing that our loved ones are blissfully happy, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are not here with us and we miss them desperately. We are glad for them, but we are sad for ourselves. Death is an unnatural intruder into God’s world, the wages of sin, part of God’s righteous curse on the human race. It hurts. Some Christians can give the impression that grieving is a lack of faith. Perhaps they forget that Jesus himself wept at the death of his friend. Grieving is a good sign—it’s evidence that we loved the person who has died, that they meant a lot to us, that we are the poorer for having lost them. Isn’t that the conclusion onlookers drew about Jesus’ relationship to Lazarus? ‘So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”’ (Jn 11.36)
2. Express your emotion. We are not disembodied souls. Our Bibles teach us that we are made up of two parts—a body and a soul—and there is a complex interplay between these two facets of our being. We don’t just think thoughts. We feel with the emotional register God has given us. There is nothing sanctified about repressing emotion—it’s a denial of our God-given, God-designed humanity. It is more Stoic than Christian. Our emotions are from God.