Grief: The God of All Comfort.

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

One of the timeless truths from God’s Word is that while the believer in Christ encounters tribulations in this life, and the subsequent grief, these tribulations and griefs are not purposeless. The Apostle Paul writes that God does not waste any effort in comforting us in all of our affliction. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Two key words are found in 2 Corinthians 1:4. They are “affliction” and “comfort.” No two words would appear to be so unrelated to each other and yet God joins them together for a productive purpose.

The word comfort (παρακαλῶν; parakalon) means to encourage and to console. It appears not only as a verb but also as a noun in this text. That means that not only is God an encourager and consoler but believers in Christ are to be as well. We can be an encourager and a consoler to others with the same encouragement and consolation God gave us.

Note that God’s encouragement and consolation occurred while we were, and perhaps are, in the midst of affliction. Affliction (θλίψει; thlipsis) means trouble, distress, suffering and persecution. It is pain. However, God promises to comfort us in all of our affliction. Not just some, but all.

Who better to console someone who has endured the death of a child, or grandchild, than someone who has experienced the very same affliction? Who better to comfort a person stricken with breast cancer than one who has encountered that same disease? Who better to comfort a family encountering a prodigal than a family who has felt the pain of a wayward child or parent?

There have been several people who have approached my family with encouragement and comfort in these recent days. Those who have especially touched us were those who told us they knew what we were going through because they too had experienced the death of a stillborn child and grandchild. This resulted in a spoken, and unspoken, bond of comfort and understanding.

Dr. Joel Beeke writes, “Every morning for several months, my wife and I walked past an injured Canada goose, whose feathers stuck out in several directions. For all those months, several geese dutifully stayed with the injured bird. Likewise, caring for the wounded is the church’s loving duty to her own. Paul teaches us that when one member of Christ’s body suffers, “all the members suffer” (1 Cor.12:26 KJV). Caring for the grieving promotes the unity of the body of Christ and fosters the communion of saints. Furthermore, grieving saints have a claim on our compassion for Christ’s sake (Matt. 25:40).”

I may not know exactly how, and in what situations, God has comforted, encouraged and consoled you while you were, or are, in the midst of affliction. However, the Scriptures tell us that you can use that God given consolation to console others who are experiencing what you have experienced. 

May all of us be a source of comfort and encouragement today to someone in the midst of affliction.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Grief: Rejoicing in Sufferings.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

In his magnum opus of theology, the Apostle Paul, after setting forth the need for salvation in Romans 1:18-4:25, articulates the benefits and blessings of salvation beginning in 5:1-5. He immediately communicates that those who have been justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone have three specific blessings: (1) peace with God; (2) access to God by grace; and (3) hope in the glory of God.

Additionally to rejoicing in the confident expectation of eternally being in the presence of God, the apostle then says the believer in Christ is to rejoice in their sufferings. Sufferings (θλίψεσιν; thilpsesin) refers to troubles, persecutions and pain. It may also be defined as tribulation.

The believer in Christ is to presently and actively have confidence in the Lord, even while in the midst of their tribulation, because the believer in Christ knows and understands these specific sufferings produce endurance. Endurance (ὑπομονὴν; hypomonen) is the capacity to continually bear up under difficult circumstances.

The verb “produces” (κατεργάζεται; katergazetai) means to cause to be, to make or to result in a goal being accomplished. It is something being done with thoroughness.

Endurance then produces character. Character (δοκιμήν; dokimen) means proven and tested reliability. It refers to an individual who possesses and examine and tested genuineness. The individual is a person of integrity.

Character results in hope. Hope (ἐλπίδα; elpida) is confidence to that which is good and beneficial. The confidence we have is that God is doing a work within our souls to conform each believer to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and that He promises to complete that work (Philippians 1:6).

Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon writes, “Here is a precious truth for you, believer. You may be poor or suffering or unknown, but for your encouragement take a moment to review your calling and the consequences that flow from it, and especially the blessed result spoken of here. As surely as you are God’s child today, so surely will all your trials soon come to an end, and you shall be rich to an extent that is hard to imagine. Wait awhile, and your weary head will wear the crown of glory, and the worker’s hand shall grasp the palm-branch of victory. Do not bemoan your troubles, but rather rejoice that before long you will be where no longer “shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore.”1 The chariots of fire are at your door, and it will take only a moment to transport you to the glorified. The everlasting song is almost on your lip. The portals of heaven stand open for you.”

 Spurgeon concludes, “Do not think that you can fail to enter into your rest. If He has called you, nothing can divide you from His love. Distress cannot sever the bond; the fire of persecution cannot burn the link; the hammer of hell cannot break the chain. You are secure; that voice which called you at first shall call you yet again from earth to heaven, from death’s dark gloom to immortality’s unuttered splendors. Rest assured, the heart of Him who has justified you beats with infinite love toward you. You will soon be with the glorified, where your portion is; you are only waiting here to be made ready for the inheritance, and with that done, the wings of angels shall carry you far away, to the mount of peace and joy and blessedness, where Far from a world of grief and sin, With God eternally shut in, you shall rest forever and ever.”

 May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Grief: Grief is Temporary.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

“The Bible tells us that God makes use of grief in this life for His glorious purposes and our good. While no one cheerfully invites grief, the Bible tells us on several accounts that grief in the life of the Christian is a good thing. For starters, grief is good when it is over sin (Ps. 51:3–4). Second, grief is good when it leads us to repentance (2 Cor. 7:9). And of particular interest to me is that grief is good when it awakens in us our longings for heaven and the final consummation where Christ promises to make all things new (Rev. 21:1–5).” Pastor Anthony Carter

The Apostle John, in today’s text, not only indicates the Lord saying that He will make all things new, but also that He will wipe every tear from the believers eyes, there will be no more death, no mourning, crying and no more pain. What God is communicating through the apostle is transcendent truth. It is an eternal reality in heaven which eclipses the temporary reality we are currently experiencing on this earth. God’s Word is eternal and when the believer in Christ fixes their life upon it, then they can withstand everything on this earth, which is temporary.

However, please understand that the current, secular culture attacks everything that is eternal. In other words, the world attacks God and His truth. God’s transcendent truth should lead me to trust in the transcendent God who communicates and reveals truth. I can depend, commit and rely upon the Lord, even in the midst of grief and grieving.

Psalm 119:89-96 says, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.  By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. If your law had not been my delight I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts. The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies. I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.”

 The psalmist reveals the trust in the transcendent God and His transcendent truth leads the believer in Christ through temporary afflictions, uncertainties and adversities. Therefore, the resulting grief caused by those temporary afflictions, uncertainties and adversities will be eclipsed by the joy of God’s eternity.

 Another way of saying that the believer in Christ is to rely on the transcendent God who reveals transcendent truth is to turn our eyes upon Jesus. They hymn writer, Helen H. Lemmel, expressed it this way.

  1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
    No light in the darkness you see?
    There’s light for a look at the Savior,
    And life more abundant and free!

    • Refrain:
      Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
      Look full in His wonderful face,
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
      In the light of His glory and grace.
  2. Through death into life everlasting
    He passed, and we follow Him there;
    o’er us sin no more hath dominion—
    For more than conqu’rors we are!
  3. His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
    Believe Him, and all will be well:
    Then go to a world that is dying,
    His perfect salvation to tell!

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Grief: The God who Cares.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3.

“Nothing in life can prepare us for the death of a loved one. Whether death results from a sudden accident or a sustained illness, it always catches us off-guard. Death is so deeply personal and stunningly final, nothing can emotionally prepare us for its arrival. With every death, there is a loss. And with every loss, there will be grief.” Author unknown.

Why did this happen? Who’s responsible? Where is God when I hurt? Have you ever asked those questions, or variations of the same? Sometimes the answers are forthcoming. Sometimes you are overwhelmed with the deafening sound of silence.

Why did this happen? In doing research about my granddaughter’s stillborn birth, I discovered that it is very uncommon for a baby to die in late pregnancy these days because women are healthier and good prenatal care is available. However, unfortunately some babies do die, sometimes without warning and despite women doing all the right things.

Some babies die in the uterus (womb) before they are born (called an intra-uterine fetal death). It can happen during the last half of pregnancy or, more rarely, during the labour and birth, when it is known as intrapartum death. When the baby who has died during labour and birth is born, this is called a stillbirth.

Who’s responsible? As these weeks have unfolded, my daughter’s doctor informed her and my son-in-law of the likely reason for their daughter’s, my granddaughter’s, heart stoppage. Blood clots in the placenta probably restricted blood flow to the baby causing her tiny heart to eventually stop beating. The physician is unsure why this occurred since everything prior to Emberlynn’s death indicated a healthy pregnancy. He emphasized to my daughter Elizabeth that she had done everything right and was not to blame.

Where is God? Jerry Bridges, in his book Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, writes, “Obeying God makes sense to us. In most cases, His laws appear reasonable and wise, and even when we don’t want to obey them, we usually concede that they are good for us. But the circumstances we find ourselves in often defy explanation. When unexpected situations arise that appear unjust, irrational, or even dreadful, we feel confused and frustrated. And before long, we begin to doubt God’s concern for us or His control over our lives. Adversity is hard to endure and can even be harder to understand. If God were really in control, why would He allow the tragic auto accident or crucial job loss? How could He permit cancer in a loved one or the death of a child? Grappling with His concern for us we ask, “Why is God allowing this?” or “What have I done wrong?” 

In exploring these questions, Bridges, and I, conclude that God remains where He always is: on His throne and in sovereign control of everything which happens in our lives. Believers in Christ can rest on the promise of Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Nowhere in the Scriptures does God tell us that we will understand everything which happens in our lives. No such promise is found in the Bible. However, what we are commanded to do is to trust in the Lord.

This was Solomon’s instruction to his son in Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

This is also the thematic verse from the Book of Habakkuk. In Habakkuk 2:4, the prophet writes, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”

Believers in Christ may trust in the LORD because He is trustworthy. I encourage you to meditate upon these verses.

Psalm 33:4 – “For the word of the LORD is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness.”

Psalm 18:30As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.”

Psalm 145:13Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.”

Psalm 19:7The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”

Psalm 111:7The works of His hands are truth and justice; All His precepts are sure.”

As I am writing these words, I am gripped by a profound sense of sadness. Sadness caused by the void left in the my, and my family’s life, by an unborn girl’s death. There is also a grief in knowing that others have experienced this same sadness. However, this grief is temporary and will give way to everlasting joy and peace. 

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Glora! 

 

 

 

 

Grief: The Waves of Grief.

“And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan his son.” 2 Samuel 1:17

Have you ever been unexpectedly hit and upended by an ocean’s wave? I have enjoyed swimming and playing in the Atlantic Ocean on many occasions. I have also been hit by an errant wave which I did not anticipate. Immediately, I was knocked down and lost my balance. Even as I tried to get up on my feet, another wave would come and again upend me until I was able to get my bearings, get up and move closer to shore.

It’s amazing that when a wave hits you it also results in a loss of your strength and energy. As I would return to shore following my ‘wave adventure” I noticed how weak I had become. I was in need of some rest on the beach.  

Grief and grieving is a lot like being hit and knocked down by a wave of water. You begin to think you’re balanced and all is well and then you are knocked down by an unexpected encounter with someone or by a comment made by someone. Suddenly, you are hit by a wave of emotion that you did not see coming. You become vulnerable and emotional. You’re not sure what to do next except flee to a secluded place to find rest.

As one author writes, “Grief doesn’t come and go in an orderly, confined time frame. Just when we think the pangs of anguish have stolen their last breath, another wave sweeps in and we are forced to revisit the memories, the pain, the fear. Sometimes we try to resist the demands of grieving. We long to avoid this fierce, yet holy pilgrimage. We fight against the currents, terrified of being overwhelmed, of being discovered, of becoming lost in our brokenness.” 

David, for example, was grieved to hear of the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan, David’s best friend. The news hit him like an ocean wave. 2 Samuel 1:17-27 presents David’s grief for Saul and Jonathan. David’s poem reveals the heart-wrenching sadness that he felt when he learned of their deaths.

As one commentator explains, Lament is a common biblical genre, and its presence in Scripture indicates the appropriate role of sadness in the believer’s life. Death is not something we approach stoically; it is not in God’s original intent for creation, and it is something that should be mourned deeply. In fact, even the natural world itself looks forward to the day when death will be no more (Rom. 8:18–25). The loss of family and friends is understandably painful and, as Matthew Henry comments, “the more we love the more we grieve.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “When we speak of grief, we speak about an emotion of which the Scriptures are profoundly aware. We speak of an emotion that was most poignantly manifested in the life and the experience of our Lord Himself. Jesus was described as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. His acquaintanceship with grief was not merely a sympathetic or empathetic awareness of other people’s pain. Rather, His experience of grief was a pain that He felt within Himself. To be sure, His pain was the result of His perception, not of His own shortcomings, but of the great evils that plague this world. We think of Jesus coming to the holy city, the city that He visited as a boy, the city that incorporated all of the promises that God had made to His people Israel, the city that was Zion’s holy hill. He came to that city, the city of promise, at a time when its corruption had reached its highest point. The nadir of unbelief was encrusted around the city of Jerusalem. When Jesus observed this city, He cried out in a lament, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets…. How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” It’s the grief that Jesus experienced when He noticed those women weeping for Him as He was moved, pushed, and shoved towards the cross at Golgotha. He said to these bystanders, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28). Our Lord’s grief was rooted and grounded in His compassion for a fallen world.”

How do we process our grief? Like David, some may compose a song like Elton John did upon the occasion of Princess Diana’s funeral. Goodbye English Rose was his way of dealing with his grief resulting from her tragic death. The song provided a catharsis for the deceased princess’ many mourners.  

Others may write a book. C. S. Lewis did so. His work, aptly entitled A Grief Observed, were his reflections on the experience of grief following the death of his wife, Joy Davidman, in 1960.

Still others may not process their grief at all. This is tragic because it often results in a crippling bitterness which grips the individual’s soul like an iron vice refusing to release itself. How often I have witnessed this in the lives of people I have known and shepherded. Their debilitating bitterness eclipsed any initial grief they may have had rendering them incapable of functioning in a productive manner. 

Ultimately, we must turn to the Lord and the Word of God to find help in our time of need and grief. It is to this that we will consider when next we meet.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grief: An Introduction.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

I find myself a little hesitant about addressing the subject of grief. It is not because the Bible has nothing to say about the topic. It does. However, I am reluctant because I know that there many other people and pastors who have experienced much more grief than I have and have much more insight about grieving than I do.

Therefore, I seek to share what God’s Word has to say about grief and draw and conclusions about the subject from God’s inspired truth. Grief is deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death. The Bible addresses the subject in many portions of the Old and New Testament concerning a variety of circumstances and situations.

For example, Isaac and Rebekah experienced grief when their son Esau married a Hittite woman (Genesis 26:35). God mourned the misery of Israel brought upon them by disobedience (Judges 10:16). Because she had no son, Hannah was sad—so much so that she appeared to be drunk while praying (1 Samuel 1:16). Similarly, Samuel, grieved at King Saul’s disobedience, prayed all night. Job was exceedingly sorrowful over his personal loss (Job 2:13; cf. 6:2; 16:6), and the psalmist poetically demonstrated distress and sorrow (Pss 6:7; 31:9–10; 69:26; 73:21; 95:10; 112:10). The book of Lamentations is devoted to the expression of grief, and the prophets in general speak of judgment because Israel had grieved a holy God.

In the New Testament, Jesus experienced sorrow and distress (Mark 3:5; John 11:33), including crying over the death of a friend (John 11:35). Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

The Jews are said to have been grieved as the apostles taught about Christ (Acts 4:2). The apostle Paul instructed believers not to grieve one another (Rom 14:15) and did not want to cause any sorrow himself (2 Corinthians 2:1–5). Most of all, the believer is not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). A believer may, of course, experience grief and suffering in an alien world (1 Peter 2:19).

Jesus explicitly said to His disciples that in this world, they, and all disciples who seek to follow the Lord, would experience trouble and tribulation (John 16:33).

Today’s text is taken from Psalm 34. It is a Psalm of David. The occasion for the psalm was when David pretended to be insane before King Abimelech (I Samuel 21:10-19). It is a psalm addressing the blessing of those who trust in the LORD.

David is stating that Yahweh is close by and near to those who are crushed and despondent in their inner person and soul. In other words, the Lord is particularly near to His people who are experiencing great grief in their minds, emotions and wills. What a precious promise.

Dr. R.C. Sproul’s thoughts on grief are particularly insightful. He writes, “When we speak of the reality of grief, we are talking about pain. The pain that we describe by the use of this word, however, is not the pain of a minor irritation. It is not the pain of a broken bone, a fractured leg, a pierced shoulder. It is a pain that penetrates the skin of a person and plunges to the deepest recesses of the person’s being. It is a pain that grips the soul with a vise-like pincer that brings with the pain an excruciating sense of mourning. We use the term grief to describe pain that assaults the deepest level of our being. We often use the metaphor of the broken heart, yet we know that hearts don’t break like a glass that falls on the floor or like bones that are shattered in an accident. The broken heart really describes a weeping soul, a soul that is cloaked in the darkest night.”

 My family is currently grieving the death of a stillborn child. Many friends and acquaintances have shared with me their own personal stories of having experienced this same event and the resulting grief and pain they felt. I am truly amazed as to how many families have suffered this type of loss. I am also comforted by those who understand what me and my family are experiencing (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

May you take comfort in that the LORD is near to the brokenhearted. May you also comfort, and be comforted by, those who are grieving a similar loss as you.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!