Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ~ Matt. 11:28–30
There is nothing easy about grief.
No easy way to speed up the process or avoid it entirely. Throughout life, we endure loss. It's as simple as that. This heartbreakingly bitter experience that leaves a foul taste in our mouths and keeps us up at night cannot be averted, not when we love deeply.
Grief can take many forms, too. Of course, there's the death of a loved one, but there's also the death of a dream—of that lifelong passion you've been pouring yourself into, only for it to slip through your fingers and disappear from existence. We spend our lives alongside our dear friends and family, little by little building those relationships to an extent that we can't imagine life without them. Doesn't it seem cruel when they, too, leave this earth, leave our side?
Even as Christians, grieving doesn't seem to get any easier. We experience loss, too. It's ineffably agonizing and difficult to bear, even though we may understand that our loved one is now home in heaven, and we will see them again. It still doesn't dull the pain, at least not for a while.
As our days move by at a snail's pace, and grief continues to have its lengthy hold on us, we can't help but cry out to God and ask Him why. Why is this allowed? Where are you, God? What do you have to say about this?
Today, we're standing with you in your grief, whatever that may look like. We're opening up our hearts to you and letting you know that you're not alone. We only hope that our findings from Scripture can help you through this difficult time. God is with you. Without further ado, here are a few things we've learned about grief and God's nature.
Jesus Is Near Those Who Suffer
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” ~ Psalm 34:18
To get a better understanding of where our comfort comes from, we must first understand Jesus' heart. We're told in Scripture that He is, "Gentle and lowly in heart," (Matthew 11:29). What exactly does this mean?
Gentle, meaning he is meek and humble. He is the opposite of what many folks in the New Testament were expecting from the Messiah. They expected Him to be Davidic in nature—a mighty warrior king set to destroy their enemy. Instead, Jesus came into the world rather humbly. He was born in a barn, to a faithful couple of little social power.
Lowly, which can be translated as humble. As Dane Ortlund clarifies in his book, Gently and Lowly: the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, "Throughout the New Testament this Greek word refers not to humility as a virtue but to humility in the sense of destitution or being thrust downward by life circumstance." In short, Jesus was far from society's upper crust. He was and is accessible.
We don't have to make ourselves better, holier, happier. We can enter into His welcoming arms.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin." ~ Hebrews 4:15
Jesus is not far from those who are suffering. It is His very nature to be drawn to you. Will you receive Him?
God Speaks Loudly Through Loss
The Bible is a book largely about suffering, and God's response to it. Think of all the books that are a response to human suffering, whether that be war, illness, loneliness, or grief. The Bible is a book for all seasons, but it holds a special reverence for those who are experiencing loss.
Trials and tribulations are often pivotal crossroads in our lives. It's when we discover who we truly are. It's when our faith is tested, much like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being cast into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:16-28).
It's never pretty and it often moves us in a way that nothing else could. This single, stunning event reveals our true heart to us, for better or for worse.
Many turn away from God when they encounter loss. It's just too unimaginable that a God of love and goodness could allow such heartache. "This God of ours must not be good, if He let my friend die." These words may never be uttered, but these bitter thoughts take root in the mind and seem more and more believable with each passing day.
While some turn from God through loss, others have the ultimate encounter with Him. It's that pivotal moment when we recognize that we are not in control. As Timothy Keller states in his book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, "I learned that just as many people find God through affliction and suffering. Troubled times awaken them out of their haunted sleep of spiritual self-sufficiency into a serious search for the divine. Suffering plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul."
This has certainly been true of our lives. Do you find this to be true for you, as well?
Our encounters with the "fiery furnace" move us from a place of apathy, distance, and lack of knowledge, to someone who is deeply moved, present, and filled with the wisdom of who God really is. These times test us, but they also perfect our faith.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." ~ James 1:2-3
God is present every second of our lives, but He truly makes Himself known to us through our pain. Think of this quote from theologian C.S. Lewis, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain."
Suffering of any kind is not easy. It's not avoidable. We don't quite understand why we have to experience it, but we're given glimmers of hope throughout Scripture that there is more to our earthly grievances than we let on. There is a holy purpose, designed to draw you closer to God Himself.
Above all else, take heart knowing you are not alone in your grief. Jesus stands with you. Run to Him daily. Seek His words of truth in Scripture. Find fellowship and community to process what you're feeling.
"Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering." ~ Elisabeth Elliot
A Gentle Reminder
When we're going through a tough season, every little thing counts, from the soothing coffee we make ourselves in the morning, an uplifting worship song on repeat, to an encouraging text from a friend. We seek out gentle reminders of God's goodness—and we cling to them. Those little positive reminders go a long way. We offer Christian t-shirts that provide an extra reminder of truth when the storm is raging. Something so simple, like a shirt with the word "Pray" on it, can give you the encouragement you need to face the day, and that's our hope, too.
You're never alone, LiF family! Be sure to check out our VIP Facebook Group to get plugged into our community.