22 Mar GRIEF – Darkness And Pain That Opens Our Eyes To Truly See God
“I had heard reports about you, but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5
After we lost our daughter, I found myself face to face with the G-word…well, it was more like one of those scenes, where I said to Grief, “You. Me. Outside. Now.” I had planned to confront it head on and kick its little butt…climb up each rung of the ladder getting me from denial to acceptance so I could move forward. But I found myself in the parking lot alone, glancing at my watch…waiting for this Grief to show up so I could persevere through my plan of conquering it…so I could finally have an answer when well-meaning people asked me, “Where are you in your grief? How are you dealing with everything?”
However, as I was waiting for Grief to show up as the predictable process I had prepared myself for, I was blindsided by an unpredictable tsunami. Much like the scene in Exodus, when Pharaoh’s men were overtaken by the Red Sea, the wave of Grief rushed over me. Grief is much more like an ocean than a tidy chart of stages. It’s sometimes calm and smooth, and other times roaring and choppy. The waves can push you from one feeling or “stage” in an instant without warning. Sometimes it swallows you whole and other times you grab a surfboard and ride the waves. It’s unpredictable and different for every person.
I wanted so badly to get to know my enemy, Grief, so I could defeat it. But the truth is, Grief is not the enemy. Satan is. He wants to use our grief to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). But God wants to use it for His glory and ultimate purpose. What Satan intends for evil, God intends for good (Genesis 50:20). What we do know about Grief is that it followed The Fall. When sin entered the world so did shame, suffering, and death…and where those are, Grief is also. The Jesus Storybook Bible tells it like this, “And terrible pain came into God’s heart. His children hadn’t just broken the one rule; they had broken God’s heart. They had broken their wonderful relationship with him. And now He knew everything else would break. God’s creation would start to unravel, and come undone, and go wrong. From now on everything would die – even though it was all supposed to live forever. You see, sin had come into God’s perfect world. And it would never leave. God’s children would always be running away from him and hiding in the dark. Their hearts would break now and never work properly again.”
But God’s love for His children couldn’t let the story end there…The result of The Fall, paired with God’s love for us, culminates on the Cross—where God separates Himself from Jesus.
The night prior to the crucifixion, in Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, we hear His deep intimacy with the Father—a balance of the heart’s deepest longing and surrender to the complete sovereignty of God. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). The grief and mourning that occurred that night was not in anticipation of His death…He was grieving and anticipating the loss of God’s presence (sound familiar?)—the darkness and pain that would be brought upon Jesus because of His separation from God.
“God was going to pour into Jesus’ heart all the sadness and brokenness in people’s hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus’ body all the sickness in people’s bodies. God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong. It would crush Jesus. But there was something else, something even more horrible. When people ran away from God, they lost God—it was what happened when they ran away. Not being close to God was like a punishment. Jesus was going to take that punishment. Jesus knew what that meant. He was going to lose his Father—and that, Jesus knew, would break his heart in two. Violent sobs shook Jesus’ whole body. Then Jesus was quiet. Like a lamb. ‘I trust you, Papa,’ he said. ‘Whatever you say, I will do.’…
“Later on the cross—‘Papa?’ Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky. ‘Papa? Where are you? Don’t leave me!’ And for the first time—and the last—when he spoke, nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence, God didn’t answer. He turned away from his Boy. Tears rolled down Jesus’ face. The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye.” -Jesus Storybook Bible
Jesus was separated from God in that moment so that we never have to be.
This is why Peter tells us to rejoice in our suffering (1 Peter 1:6). This is why David can sing a new song through persecution, fear, regret, and loss (Psalm 40:3). When you read the psalms of David you see he is deeply afflicted and grieved; however, it’s hard to find a psalm that does not talk about giving thanks to the Lord through his sorrow, fears, and regrets…and singing a new song in response. We can rejoice because our grief builds our trust in God. We can rejoice because our grief gives us a deepened experience with God, placing us humbly under His hand and allowing for greater intimacy with Him.
We see this in the story of Job. Throughout his intense suffering, he longs for answers and restoration. He has doubts and even questions the Lord. God then speaks, revealing Himself to Job through a whirlwind of questions and revelations. Job replies, “I had heard reports about you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I reject my words and am sorry for them; I am dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). “Job realized that even though he had feared and followed God, he hadn’t really known God. Through suffering, however, God had revealed himself to Job in an unmistakable, intimate way.” (Nancy Guthrie, Holding onto Hope).
In the moment of separation from His Father, Jesus experienced hopeless despair and utter darkness. Something that, even in our deepest grief, we never have to experience. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters,I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” When the tsunami hits we are never without the hope of Christ. He does not allow us to be swallowed in despair by the Red Sea, but in time, He splits the waters, preparing a way through it. The Israelites were never the same when they reached the other side of the Sea. Like Job, they had experienced God in a way that would change them forever…they were free! And their path to freedom was through deep waters, giving way to greater trust and intimacy with God. We can rejoice in our suffering because “It is Finished.”
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away…Look, I am making everything new.”
Here are some questions to help you process grief in your own life:
1. How has grief allowed you to deepen your faith and intimacy with the Lord?
2. How does God’s Word comfort you and give you peace in your grieving?
3. Do you feel stuck in the unpredictable process of grief? What would help you give your grief over to the Lord and trust that He cares for you?