Recently, a relative passed away. He lived a long life, over 100 years old. Yet, when I went to his service, it still felt bittersweet. He wasn’t a close relative. Nevertheless, there’s something about a person’s passing that is sobering since it heightens one’s sense of mortality. Perhaps I knew the family too well, I ended up paying very close attention to my grieving friends more than the service itself. The dead was at peace, but the living was not.
In scripture, OT often uses the phrase “is no more” to refer to death. They ceased to be. They stopped being. Regardless if they continued their existence in another realm, they are no longer with us in this time and space. And we, the living, feel that loss inexplicably. Death and loss. I wrestled with these ideas long after the service was over. I’ve been to many funerals before. However this time, I truly felt the significance of the loss of an unique person. I was walking through my own experiences of grief.
Grief is not a popular subject to talk about. And most people are not comfortable around the grieving for various reasons. When I was young, I heard pastors quote Apostle Paul at funeral services and encouraged families to stop grieving and rejoice instead. As a result, many of us from that circle felt that we have lost the permission to grieve. However, grief is not really about whether the dead is at peace or in heaven. It is how we, the living, express the irreplaceable loss we feel.
As I processed through my own emotions, I wondered how Jesus dealt with loss. Scripture recorded that when Mary told Jesus about Lazarus’s death, He wept. “Jesus wept.” Two simple words that carried so much implications. Jesus wept even though He knew the reality of the spiritual realm. His response wasn’t about whether Lazarus’ soul was in heaven. He wept because He lost His best friend. Grief is our natural response when we lose someone we love. There is no shame in that. Through this passage, I saw that even Jesus understood the heavy sadness and the torrent of emotions I felt. And my heart was comforted.
In a similar vein, Apostle Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” Sometimes, the best thing we can do for those who are grieving is acceptance and sympathy. A little girl had told her mom that all she could do to comfort her crying friend was to “be sad with her.” That was the perfect description of sympathy… to be sad with them. When I was grieving, what helped me most was not words. The times my friends sat with me and simply allowed me to express my hurts were the most healing of all. They gave me a safe place where I could honestly share my sorrow and disappointments. And their willingness to be with me even through these dark moments was enough.
Perhaps you too are wrestling through your own season of grief. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one. Maybe it’s the death of a relationship. My heart goes out to you. Even though I cannot offer a listening ear, I pray that you may find the time and space to just be and express how you feel about your loss. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. Jesus is not shocked nor offended by your sadness or anger. He is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. During this dark night of the soul, I hope you will invite Him to walk with you, and be your friend.
Sorrow and grief are such intense emotions. When we are wrapped up in them, sometimes it feels like the storm will never end. But they will. Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. At first, it may be just glimpses of peace or an unexpected burst of laughter. Relish those moments. Give yourself permission to enjoy life again. Joy and peace were meant for times like these, so that our hearts may be comforted in the storms of life. As we honor the memories of our past, our hearts will live again.