I have come to the point in my life when I can honestly say I am well acquainted with grief. I’ve now lost three of my grandparents, watched as my father navigated through the despair of losing both his parents within a month’s time, and have had two babies taken from me before they were even born. One of those babies was big enough to hold in my hands and burry. Yes, I know what grief is.
Grief is a terrible, debilitating reality that affects us all at one point or another. It is like a crouching lion hiding behind the tall grass of happy moments, waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon its prey. In this world, death and sickness are realities that plague the human race; enemies that our first mother and father allowed to slip into existence through the willful decision to sin.
I see beloved saints all around me who are in the throes of suffering: a friend whose precious baby fights for his life every day, an elder of a church body I was a member of who’s losing his battle with cancer, women who bravely share their stories of miscarriage with me…
There will come a time when suffering will be conquered, but that time is not now.
Today, we look forward to a world where sin and death are no more, a world where Christ’s victory on the cross is fully realized, where the powerful renewal of his creation is complete. We look forward to a day when our bodies will be raised to newness of life, perfected and flawless, reunited with our eternal souls to enjoy everlasting life with our Savior. This is how a Christian suffers well: by savoring the fellowship of Christ now, and looking forward to its complete fulfillment later.
Sometimes we think that if we are “godly” and “mature” Christians we will somehow be untouched by the despair that accompanies trials. We think that if we are going to have an effective and God glorifying testimony, that our sorrow must be kept private, that we must radiate the joy of the Lord through smiles and confident words when often the most earnest and confident joy is better expressed through a tear streaked face.
In many ways the gospel is either displayed or denied through the way we suffer. To deny the real, horrible pain of sorrow is to deny the need our world has for redemption, while the quiet joy found in the Christian’s soul even in the most difficult of times tells of a coming hope, a coming peace. When the weight of sorrow presses down, the Christian must know that her Savior came to make the realities of sin and its effects impotent. He came to reverse this world of death and to deliver us into the realm of the living. He came so that one day we will experience life as it was meant to be–good, perfectly good.
When I see Christians suffering well, when I see them acknowledging the painfulness of grief and yet boasting in the joy of knowing the Risen Savior and the hope of one day being raised with him, my soul is ministered to and my own faith is strengthened. Their steadfastness in the faith bolsters my own and gives me a vision for eternity–and eternity with Christ our loving king.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)