Grief is a strange beast. At times it comes as expected, completely predictable, no surprises. But other times, it broadsides you out of nowhere, right? Kind of like a burly linebacker pummeling you at full force from behind.
The intensity of the assault leaves you flat on your back, gasping for air. You lay there wondering “where in the world did that come from?” Yep, it’s like that sometimes.
Or what about when it comes upon you in a more subtle manner. It tiptoes up beside you with a gentle tap on your shoulder, quietly whispering in your ear, “yeah, I’m still here alright.” You just never know how and when grief is going to hit you.
While I may never understand grief and its unconventional nature, I have found some things to help sustain me through the dark moments of my life. Now, I’m not saying this is some formula for you to follow necessarily. Mourning doesn’t work like that. But, remembering these six things can keep you from going into a tailspin when grief hits you hard.
You may want to read:
- How To Take Your Thoughts Captive
- A Few Thoughts On An Unchangeable Situation
- Beyond Your Ability? God Has You Right Where He Wants You
Okay, this might seem like a no-brainer, but you have permission to weep, or how about this, not to weep. For some people, crying comes easy (huh, hmm – ME!). But for others, not so much. They might have a hard time showing emotion, at least outwardly. Even if they do happen to shed a few tears, they quickly apologize as if they’ve done something wrong.
But there’s no need for guilt when it comes to how you express your grief in any given moment. Sometimes I bust out crying at the oddest times. Other times, when it seems entirely appropriate to weep, like when I’m explaining my painful situation to someone, I’m all stoic and inexpressive. It’s a strange beast, I tell ya!
This might sound like a weird question, but when you cry, how do you do it? Are you withdrawn? Do you internalize your tears? Who do you cry to? To yourself? To others? Or, do you bring your mourning and hurt before the Lord?
In the book of Samuel, Hannah was devastated she couldn’t have a child. She was desperate and grieved in the deepest depths of her soul. But while she may have done her share of crying to herself and even to her husband, you see in the Scriptures she turned her cries to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:10).
She brought the broken pieces of her heart to the One that formed it. She poured out her tears to the One that collects them in a bottle and records every single drop (Psalm 56:8).
Like Hannah, you should pour out your laments to the Lord. Why? Because He knows and understands your pain like no one else can. You have a Savior that sympathizes with your weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). He put on human flesh and experienced suffering and loss the same way you do. Jesus gets it, friend.
When you come to Him in your time of need, He’ll give you grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:16). He won’t reject you for your neediness. He will comfort your hurting heart. He is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those that are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
Weep to Him!
When you are in the valley of grief, it’s easy to lose sight of God. The constant tears can blur your vision making it hard to see past the pain. In the Psalms, David shared this struggle. He said his eyes failed him because he was overcome with grief (Psalm 69:1-3).
But this is when you need to see with the “eyes of your heart” (Ephesians 1:18). You have to train yourself to watch for God and the sustaining grace He provides. It probably won’t come packaged the way you thought. I’ve found it rarely happens that way. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Recently, I’ve been walking through a difficult season, and I’ve mourned deeply. And while I have shed many tears, buckets even I think, I’ve seen and experienced God’s grace in such tangible and undeniable ways.
At times, it comes through a text that says “I’m thinking about you and praying for you every day.” It shows up in a timely phone call from a dear friend checking on me, offering her help. It’s the visit from my girlfriend, sitting on my couch next to me, listening intently and thoughtfully.
Sometimes it comes from a Scripture that God uses to infuse my heart with hope, reminding me He is with me and He has not forgotten me for one second. It shows up as a gentle whisper, reminding me of the times He’s carried me through in the past.
It’s a song on the radio the Lord uses to lift my head and show me who He is once again: sovereign and holy, merciful and kind. There are no coincidences with God, dear friend. He is with you in your deepest pit, regardless of what you’re feeling.
But as for me, I keep watch for the Lord, I wait in hope for God my Savior; my God will hear me. – Micah 7:7
Be on the lookout. Watch for Him.
If you enjoy waiting, please stand up. Still sitting, huh? Yeah, me too. I’m not sure if anybody likes to wait. It reminds me of those shows on television when they’re renovating a house or giving a person a makeover.
Do you ever just want to fast forward to the end of those shows and see the final result? I do! I want to get to the good part – the big reveal. Seeing all the messiness and the work it took to get there isn’t very appealing. I don’t like waiting through the process very much.
But a big part of the Christian life is about waiting. Waiting for the Lord (Psalm 27:14). Waiting on the Lord (Psalm 33:20). Waiting for the culmination of His plan to be fulfilled (Romans 8:23). Waiting for our coming inheritance (1 Peter 1:4). Wait, wait, and when you’re done with that, wait some more.
It’s especially hard to wait when you’re hurting, don’t you think? You just want it to end and get to the other side. You know, the joy that comes in the morning – after the mourning. You want to get to the beauty and forget the messiness. “Give me the final result and let’s just fast-forward through all this other stuff, please.”
But waiting is not a useless annoyance to rush through. Not at all! It’s a purposeful tool God uses to help change you. It’s a precious time where He produces good fruit in your life. It’s an opportunity for you to watch for Him in expectation, depending on Him to see you through.
I didn’t realize this but the word “wait” and the word “hope” are interchangeable in certain passages. While you wait, you wait with hope. Hope for something better, something unseen.
You look with the eyes of your heart for what is to come. There is an eternal glory to be revealed far beyond any grief you experience now. Don’t lose heart, friend. Fix your gaze on Him and wait (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)!
During your season of grief, you usually need a time of rest and reprieve. It can be wise to take some time away from your regular activities and responsibilities and tend to your soul. There is no shame in that.
But be careful about turning your grief into an endless loop of inactivity and introspection. Too much time off can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness. It can quickly become your identity and focus if you’re not alert to the temptation.
A few months ago, I was asked to speak at a ladies retreat in Pennsylvania. The request came at the height of an uncertain and extremely painful time for me. Almost immediately, I knew God wanted me to say yes. Of course, I said I would pray about it for a few days, which I did, but I became even more convinced that God wanted me to say yes.
The Bible says God has good works prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). These good works are profitable and beneficial to others, bringing about God’s will and purposes. Super cool, right?
While I spent countless hours before God in preparation, He did something amazing for me, miraculous even I would say. He used this time to minister to my heart in a way that would not have happened otherwise.
If I said no to the request, I would have most likely spent those couple months wallowing in the dumps about my situation. But mercifully, God had something so much better for me.
He had me sitting at His feet for hours on end, listening for His voice, aligning my thoughts with His. He knew I needed to do this good work not just to serve others, but to serve my hurting heart in the preparation.
In the book of Daniel, he saw a vision that shook him to the core. He was so exhausted from the experience he became physically sick. He took some time off to take care of himself and regain his strength. But soon afterward, he got back up and went about the king’s business (Daniel 8:27).
How about you? Are you going about the King’s business? While it’s certainly understandable and even wise to say no and take time off in your grief, be careful not to get stuck there. Don’t miss the opportunities God has for you.
When the time is right, say yes to the good works He has prepared for you. It could be the very thing your hurting heart needs!
I have a confession to make. I used to watch professional wrestling. For real. I even went to an event once. I think it was one of those Wrestlemania shows they had back in the day. Yes, it’s true. I enjoyed watching a good body-slam, pile-driver, and suplex in my younger days. I thought it was fun and entertaining at the time. What was I thinking?
Of course, this is not the kind of wrestling I’m referring to here. I’m talking about wrestling through your thoughts when you are in the throes of grief. The word wrestle means to grapple, get dusty.
Mourning has a way of bringing to the surface what’s truly in your heart. There may be some things lurking down deep you didn’t even know. In Proverbs, the writer likens our heart to deep water. He says it takes wisdom to draw out what’s down there (Proverbs 20:5).
What are your thoughts about your situation? Do you perceive any anger? Unforgiveness? Shame or guilt? What about self-righteousness? What is God revealing to you as you walk through this disappointing time?
There may be strongholds going on in your mind that you need to drop kick and power-slam (more wrestling terms for your enjoyment). Your time of grief may be the perfect opportunity to get a little dusty and grapple around on the ground.
Rick has a great article about learning how to identify your thoughts and take them captive. If you’re in a season of suffering, chances are you have pockets of unbelief. God wants to reveal these things to you, not out of condemnation, but to free you from the bondage they create in your life. Let’s get ready to rumble!
There is a powerful and effective technique used in movie making called depth of field. What it does is it puts the focus on a particular image, making it prominent, causing the images in the background to become blurry and unfocused. It brings sharpness to the main image making it stand out, especially in contrast to the fuzzy background.
Sometimes, this is what happens when you’re in a period of mourning and grief. The aching pain, the bitter disappointment, the devastating loss. These things can suddenly become prominent and the focus of your world. You zoom in on these temporal problems and have a hard time seeing anything else as a result.
Without even realizing it, you place God in the background. He becomes secondary and fuzzy next to your pain. How do you stop this from happening? How do you keep your grief from becoming your focus?
The word worship means “to fall down before.” It’s not just an action but an attitude of the heart. You should so fixate your mind on God and who He is, no matter what’s going on in your life. He should be exalted and in the forefront, causing everything else to fade into the background.
When you turn your focus on Jesus, the things of the earth do become strangely dim as the song says. When you lift Him up, your problems are brought low. They seem so insignificant in comparison to His awesome power and amazing glory.
I’ve recently noticed when I listen to songs that are about me and my problems, I get discouraged. I’m tempted to go off into a sad little corner and have a pity party for myself.
But, when the words of a song exalt God and who He is, I am encouraged. It’s renewing. I start to have a little personal praise party, right there in my mini-van. The preeminent One becomes prominent, not my pain. That is what worship does!
And even though I may not understand my grief or even when or how it will strike again, one thing I do know, I am not alone. God is with me, and He’s with you too, friend.
- Don’t Worry.
- Wait and Watch.
- Weep and Wrestle.
- Work and Worship.
As you do, that strange beast will scamper off into the background. Your mighty God will come to the forefront, and He will see you through!