What is grief? To paraphrase Webster, it is intense mental anguish, deep remorse, acute sorrow, or simply – to hurt. We think of grief as what we experience when a loved one dies, however, grief could very well be the response to a multitude of circumstances.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about how to grieve over a physical death… “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13NIV) – Christians grieve death with hope that we will see our loved ones again in heaven, and this hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Moreover, I think this same logic, instruction if you will, applies to all of our grief. Are you grieving? Is your soul in anguish? Do you lie awake at night? Does remorse flood your soul? Is there sorrow that just will not end? Does your heart simply hurt?
How do we follow the Apostle Paul’s instructions to grieve with hope when our grief is due to something other than a physical death? What does grieving with hope look like for you? For me? What is our hope?
Christian hope is a settled assurance that is built on the truth that God is a promise keeper. Our hope is a confidence that is established on the evidence that God has faithfully kept every promise in the past, therefore, we know that he will keep every promise made to us. The attributes and character of God are the foundation upon which our hope stands.
Hope is not merely dreaming – it is not the groundless thought that everything turns out for good. God doesn’t promise us that. You won’t find that verse in the Bible.
God does promise us that he is at work in every single circumstance of our lives. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…” (Romans 8:28NIV)
When we believe the truth that God is working in the very thing that causes our grief, we can have hope. We have hope because we know that God will not abandon us in our suffering or to our circumstances. Our hope stands firm in the knowledge that God is working in our anguish, remorse, sorrow and pain for his good purposes.
We know that when God is at work in our circumstances every attribute of God is involved in our circumstances. This is grounds for hope! Of course we grieve over what is lost, what might have been, could have been or should have been, but we hope for what will be because God is here and he is at work!
When we have hope, grief does not consume us. We find that walking and living on the solid foundation of God’s promises strengthens us.
Does that mean we don’t hurt? Or that we must hide our pain behind a fake smile of false contentment? No. Hope enables us to continue living, and enjoying life, while we grieve.
Life is not easy and it is not pain free. God did not promise us trouble free lives. He didn’t promise that people we love wouldn’t die, marriages wouldn’t fail, addictions wouldn’t ruin our families, poverty wouldn’t strike, our health wouldn’t sustain us, or that we wouldn’t make foolish mistakes.
God did promise us that he will be with us. And he promised us that when life is too much for us to handle, that he is there to hold us together while he holds us up.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced… We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself… But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God…” – 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV
God goes to great lengths to make sure we have the information we need, the instructions for life, the BIBLE: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. However, it is our responsibility to read and study the Bible in order to know what those instructions are.
We cannot change all of our circumstances, but we can choose how we respond to them, and how we live in them. We are instructed to grieve with hope. This is possible only when we believe God’s promise that he is with us, and he is at work.
Are you informed? When you lie awake in the middle of the night are you informed? When the day is overwhelming, are you informed? When the pain is too much to bear, are you informed?
In your grief, anguish, remorse, sorrow or hurt, are you grieving as instructed? God is at work, and every single one of his attributes is present where God is at work. God brings hope to your grief. Will you choose to grieve in hope?