Recently, I’ve had three deaths in my family. My wife’s cousin died, my great-aunt died and last week my grandma died. In addition to this, my father has Frontotemporal dementia, and has been in the Veteran’s Hospital in Seattle for the past three months, on and off suicide watch. These recent experiences forced me to begin thinking about how to deal with grief and loss. These thoughts are more of a reflection of what I’ve been thinking about than a thorough examination of all the Bible teaches on this topic.
A good friend and I were talking about what I’ve gone through recently and he made the comment, “We never really get over it and we’re not supposed to get over it. The losses we suffer–of people we love–permanently scar our hearts. God uses this to make us more compassionate, more loving, more humble, more dependent on Him. We don’t return to a “normal” but a “new normal” shaped by what we’ve experienced. I think this is what Paul is getting at when he says he wants to know Christ through the “fellowship of suffering”. We were meant to feel the pain and grief deeply. Jesus did. Death is terrible. We should hate it as much as He hated it (expressed with Lazarus). But we also rejoice that death has been defeated as the final enemy.”
As I’ve been thinking about my friend’s helpful thoughts, I’ve come to realize that he was right– there isn’t a new normal after what I’ve gone through. I loved my grandma dearly. I remember times when I was a kid playing “Go Fish” and the conversations she and I had about life. When my grandpa died twelve years ago, I reflected long on all the memories I had of me running through the courtyard, and swimming in the pool at their apartment complex where they were apartment managers. In reflecting on my grandpa and grandma, I’ve come to realize that it is okay to reflect on such memories, but that it is not helpful for me to focus on them. When I focus on these memories I tend to get introspective and analyze “why” I’m feeling this way, when I should be focusing on Jesus through this season of life. My feelings are not the source of my comfort for grief; Jesus is– since He is the author, finisher, and perfector of our faith.
There isn’t an old normal, there is only the new normal with Christ at the center. Only Christ can mend broken hearts. Recently there has been much brokenness in our world with the Gosnell case, the Boston bombings, attempted terrorist attacks in Toronto and the massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in West Texas. You may be one of those affected by these incidents or you may be going through personal pain, loss and grief today. Wherever you are, I want you to know that once you meet Jesus your life will be changed forever more. Jesus took the filth of our sin and transferred it to Himself on the Cross, and now credits to us His righteousness.
The situations we are seeing all over the world brings up all sorts of questions about where God is in the midst of evil. As a result of these questions people cast judgment upon God and say that He is evil, unknowable, and disinterested in man. The problem of evil has been given a loud and definitive answer– Jesus who suffered, bled, died, rose, and is now our Intercessor, Mediator, and King. You may be going through all sorts of suffering right now, or even experiencing a great deal of personal loss as I have, but the fact is, as Christians we have a real Savior who really cares and who is victorious over sin and death through the Cross and resurrection. Furthermore, our Savior is now our exalted High Priest, Meditator, and Intercessor. Not only this, but our Savior in His sinless life suffered great injustice enduring abuse to within an inch of his life, and then carrying a Cross, and dying by crucifixion, the most horrible way to die in the ancient world. All of this points to the Truth that in every way Jesus understands our pain, because He bore it on the Cross. This is why the Truth of Hebrews 4:15 is so beautiful, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Rather than judgment and condemnation, Jesus– who knows our temptations and yet never sinned– has compassion and sympathy for us. Christians should never offer condemnation of enemies of God, but pray that He would open up their eyes to the truth of Himself. Our hope is not in our national identity, or political ideology, but in a victorious, triumphant, exalted and soon coming King in Jesus. In the midst of grief, loss, national tragedy and more, there is good news, King Jesus is on His Throne, and He is returning soon.
God’s goodness makes the heart of the Redeemed sing in endless praise of His unending and unchanging love. Losing loved ones is never easy and neither is seeing one’s father decline slowly into death. Yet, the truth of the matter is the Gospel has an answer for all of this, our hope is not in our slowly decaying bodies but in a Risen Savior who defeated sin, death, and the grave. The triumph of Christ alone is the response that answers Satan’s accusing lie that we are not worthy or good enough to meet with God.
As a result of the finished work of Christ, the Christian can boldly come before the throne of God’s abundant grace. Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Friend, you may be going through what seems like an impossible amount of grief and loss right now. Our world, with all of its evil, may seem insurmountable and the victory of Satan inevitable, but the Truth of the matter is that, Jesus wins because of all He did on the Cross and in the resurrection. Jesus is coming back to restore order out of the chaos by making all things new. Through Jesus, Christians are overcomers. Through Him we don’t have to fear being let go, but are secured in Him because of what He has done for us.
You may be hurting and struggling with the loss of a loved one or perhaps you are dealing with the near-constant news of terrorist attacks or other pandemonium going on in our nation. In the midst of all the evil that seems to be overrunning our world, there is hope. This hope isn’t based in any program or ideology, but in the Risen and Exalted Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus’ victory secures our pardon, grants new life to the dead with the promise of new life forever before His throne. All Jesus does, He does for us so that through us He may be glorified and praised.
Embracing the new “normal” isn’t easy, in fact it’s very difficult, but it can be done through Him. While I was writing this article, I wrote the following poem:
Jesus, You are there
In the midst of
My pain, loss and grief
You bore it all on a tree
Is hope in You, my Lord
Is life in You, my Lord.
You open my eyes so I can see
See clearly the beauty of Christ
You bore my pain on a tree
Oh, how can I not sing?
Because You redeemed me from my sins
Which chained me to the darkest prison
And yet now, I am, free because of You
So open up my eyes
Let me sing through my brokenness.
Is a Savior in Jesus who makes me whole in Him
Even in the midst of my brokenness
I can sing victorious
Because of the Lamb of God who was slain
Before the foundations of the world
He is victorious, triumphant and exalted
Now, my heart sings aloud
You are here
You are victorious.