I’ve been putting off this post for months. To write about grief means to face it–to acknowledge the pain, anger and fear I’ve been avoiding. To give it words is to confess that the people I love are no longer here. To sit with it is to fully posit myself in a space I never thought I’d be–living a reality more disappointing than I’d imagined.
I lost two of my closest friends within one year of each other—one to cancer and the other to Covid.
I’ll never forget the moment I found out–where I was, what I was doing, how I was feeling. It’s all forever etched in my mind. I can’t seem to shake the time of day, the season, the smells. And even if, by chance, the memory starts to fade, something happens–a phrase, uttered, a change in weather, a familiar song–and the flashbacks flood my soul with sorrow.
In a time of great uncertainty, one thing’s for sure: most of us are grieving. And while, I’m sure, many of your burning questions have gone unanswered (mine have too), there are three undeniable truths—three promises–you and I can hold on to as we grieve.
The Promise of Healing
He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. –Psalm 147:3
Emotional wounds take much longer to heal than physical wounds. A papercut is visible. You can watch, day by day, as it heals. But so many of us are journeying through life with giant emotional gashes, invisible to the naked eye. And while doctors can take care of our physical bodies, there are some wounds that only God can heal. And grief is one of them.
Right now, I can’t even look at my friend’s funeral program. I keep it in a box in my garage. One day, I walked into my bedroom and saw it laying on my desk. I froze. I’m sure one of my children had gotten into it, so I wasn’t too upset. But in that moment, I realized I have a long way to go in the healing process.
The truth is this: my heart is broken. One day we’re talking about the future–the things we will create, the businesses we will build, the people we will shepherd. And two weeks later, my husband is searching for the words to tell me my friend transitioned. I just knew she would make it out of the hospital. After all, she was 41–full of life and vitality. How could she be gone?
There aren’t any words that make it better. There are no explanations that make any sense. And I have never asked God why. Not that there’s anything wrong with asking–it’s just that I don’t know if I even want to know. All I want is to be mended, and I know that I will be. I know that you will be too. In time, God will heal our hearts. He promised.
The Promise of Himself
The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. –Psalm 34:18
It’s odd to me that this scripture doesn’t say God is close to the righteous or the kind. It doesn’t say He’s close to the preachers or deacons or worship leaders. It says the broken-hearted. God promises the gift of Himself to those whose hearts are broken.
Have you ever been in so much emotional pain that you didn’t want to hear anyone say anything? All you wanted was someone to be there—to sit with you, to listen, to bring comfort with their presence. This is what God does. As soon as the bad news hits your ears, He swoops in and stands right beside you.
He knows. God knows how much it hurts. Isaiah, the prophet, said that Jesus is “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). And because He knows, He is fully capable of walking with us–giving us what we need at the very moment we need it. If we have Him, we have everything.
The Promise of Hope
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. –1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14
My husband rarely uses the term “died.” And now, I don’t either. He says “transitioned.” And really, this is the most accurate word to use. Death is the transition away from earth. Psalm 116:15 says “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” The only way that death can be precious in the sight of God is if it’s not the end, but rather the beginning–not a death, but a transition. And though the body decays, the spirit does not. God has designed us as spirits who live on earth in a body.
The person you and I love so much is not dead. Thus, I have resolved to cease talking about my friends in the past tense. I will not speak about who they were but rather who they are. This may seem radical, but scripture teaches me that my friends have “fallen asleep in him.” It also lets me know that whether I transition or not, I will be reunited with the people I love when Jesus returns (Thessalonians 4: 16-17). This is where our hope comes from.
We can choose hope. No, it doesn’t take the sting away from the absence of our loved ones. But there is no greater time to cling to the promises of God than in our time of grief. God gives us Himself, His healing and His hope in grief. Let’s receive it.
A Prayer For You
You are good, and your mercy endures forever. Thank you for being our Father and for hiding us in the safety of your wings. Thank you for being near to my sister and my brother.
I ask this day that you would cloak us in your comfort. Quiet our restless souls with your peace. Send your angels to speak words of encouragement. Uplift us, Lord! Strengthen us to make it through each day without the people we love. I ask that when the grief is too hard to bear, reveal another piece of your grand puzzle. Show us the great purpose you have for our lives. Remind us that you are the author and finisher of our faith. Remind us that you are making our lives into something worthwhile. Nourish our souls with sweet words of life. Send help, Lord! Send support, Lord! Grant us peaceful rest at night, Father. Lift the heaviness we feel, God. Replace our mourning with dancing. Replace our sorrow with joy.
Fulfill your promise of nearness, healing and hope.
Come Lord Jesus. May you be the King of our hearts.
We trust you.
In Christ’s name I pray,