Grief is a deep and powerful emotion caused by the loss of someone or something we held dear. Grief is the price we pay for loving and engaging with life. Every emotionally healthy person will experience seasons of grief because death and loss are a part of this transitory life. We can also experience grief over events that others may not consider worth grieving, such as a job loss, a pet’s death, or the sale of a childhood home. We may have to grieve privately for those losses that remain unspoken, such as abortion, loss of virginity, or betrayal by a spouse. It is sin’s presence in the world that makes grief a common experience. And, even though God never intended the human heart to suffer grief, He included instructions and promises in His Word to help us through it.
Psalm 34:18 says that “the LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God understands our grief and offers to be with us and comfort us with promises from His Word and with the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:6–7). He also included examples in His Word of godly people who suffered grief. Peter felt grief when Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:17), and he grieved at the memory of how he had betrayed his best Friend (Luke 22:61–62). Paul was grieved over the unrepentant sin in the churches he loved (2 Corinthians 12:21). And Jesus grieved over the hardness of people’s hearts in refusing to accept Him as the Son of God (Mark 3:5). As His crucifixion approached, Jesus was deeply grieved at the tremendous ordeal He had to face (Mark 14:33–36).
We can grieve the Holy Spirit by our actions and attitudes (Ephesians 4:30). When we have been bought with the blood of Jesus, sealed forever as a child of God, the Holy Spirit takes the initiative to transform us into godly people (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:29). But He does not make us robots. We still have the freedom to obey or disobey Him. When we act in carnal, fleshly ways, we grieve the Spirit who lives inside us.
Death is always a season of grief for those left behind. Even so, Paul writes that Christians do not grieve the death of a fellow believer in the same way that unbelievers grieve. First Thessalonians 4:13–14 says, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Paul reminds us to think of the death of a Christian as “sleep,” because it is a temporary state. Our grief can be temporary as well. Although we are sorrowful that we won’t share any more earthly experiences with our departed Christian loved ones, we can also look forward to an eternity with them. Grief and hope can coexist when we know the destiny of the ones we love. That knowledge helps us move on, eager for the day when the Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 7:17; 21:4).