As we deal with a new reality in our lives, many of us are dealing with grief or know someone who is. Grief touches everyone, spares none, and makes prisoners of us indefinitely.
Yet, we struggle in limbo for months, weeks, and years. I struggled with grief for years after my father died. As I went through the literature on grief, I realized more than ever that the best book about it was God’s letter of love to me, His Word. The words of Peter in John 6:68 echoed in my heart, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Stories of Grief
The Bible has some of the most significant and devastating stories of grief. There’s Job who went through such a torrid time of losing his entire family at once. We have seen several stories of this during this difficult pandemic where people have lost multiple members of a family. Your heart breaks when you hear these stories. Yet, through his experience Job doesn’t curse God.
The Old Testament mentions so many widows ministered to by the prophets. There’s Ruth who chooses God and His people by simply serving where God has called her.
In the New Testament, Jesus himself grieves for Lazarus. They are potent words in John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” Perhaps the greatest example to deal with our grief is Mary. What must have gone through that mother’s mind as she saw her sinless, blameless son scourged and beaten?
The scene in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, where Mary wipes the blood off the floor following the scourging never leaves my mind. What must this mother have felt as she wiped that blood and watched that scene, “the blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh, why are they doing this to my son?”
Those are the same questions we ask God in our grief: Why? Why my son, husband, daughter, father, or mother? Why Lord? And yet, Mary says, “Yes” to the will of God. She hunkers down with the disciples, she doesn’t accuse anyone, she keeps everything in her heart and watches her son stripped and mocked. Just days before, they were crowning him King and laying down their robes for him as he entered Jerusalem, moments that may have filled her with motherly pride. How then were these very people asking for her son to be crucified? Where were his supporters, his friends, and the multitude of people he had saved and healed?
Aren’t these the same questions we ask when we go through a loss? We find ourselves battling grief alone. Nothing comforts us. Time seems suspended and we live as prisoners. Yet, the Bible contains stories that teach us and prepare us for death. It should come as no surprise to us. Death is inevitable. Why would God spare us when he sacrificed his own son?
And that’s another example in the Bible. No one knows grief better than our Heavenly Father. He who gave up his Son, Jesus for our sakes even while we were still slaves to sin. Who better to run to than him?
In the Bible we learn the futility of storing treasures for ourselves; there we learn of a resurrection for all; we understand the magnitude of God’s love; we learn that we will never be alone; and there we understand that Jesus has gone to prepare a home for us in heaven. This world is but a ship, heaven is our home.
Yet, when grief hits us, we are like rudderless ships, drifting, floating like deadwood. I know I was when my father died. I had no direction and purpose. I was hanging on by a thread, the hem of his garment which tethered me to Jesus. I reflected on every death story in the Bible and sought comfort in Mary. I asked for her intercession and stayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament, as the Divine Mercy and Passion of Jesus took new shape and form in my life.
I meditated on Mary’s experience and drew solace that this was a journey so many had made, and that I will continually have to make until one day I go home. As I wrote Ten Reminders for The Grieving Christian, my intention was never that it becomes the “best book” on grief but rather that it leads you to the one that is: your Bible.
Through Ten Reminders for The Grieving Christian, I want to draw your attention to the tragedy and victory of Jesus in life and death and life again. There is no better book for reflection and meditation, than the experiences of those who witnessed and bore such brutal deaths. Think Jesus, John, and Stephen. What had been their mothers’ experiences?
God is nourishing and strengthening so much through his word. He speaks to us and demonstrates that he is with us as we walk through the valley of darkness. Where else can you go but to him?