These are edited notes from a sermon I preached. There is a degree of disjointedness because of it being in point form, but also some points/illustrations will have been deleted to maintain a degree of anonymity. Hopefully they will make a degree of sense and give room for the Holy Spirit to work in your mind and heart.
`God and Our Grief’
God has compassion upon us when we grieve. God will give us space to grieve. God will bring us comfort/strength to help us through our grieving.
- First of a 3 part series on Grief. This morning learning about God and His response to our experiences of loss and grief. Grief is often a time when we can feel numb, especially in our relationship with God, He can appear to us as silent, distant, uncaring, when the exact opposite is the case. So it is important that we have fixed in our minds how God is actually responding to our situation so that we can build up our hope and faith by reminding ourselves that is still at work and still cares about us.
Bible Reading: Luke 7:11-17
- In New Testament times Nain was a small town in the district of Galilee. As Jesus approached it He walked up a steeply sloping road. On one side of the road, embedded in the side of the hill, was a group of caves that were used as burial chambers. On the other was a view across the Plain of Esdraelon. Therefore it was not totally unexpetced that he would meet a funeral procession.
- Jesus would have heard a lot of crying and wailing. He would have seen many tears being shed and great grieving amongst the members of the procession. Any death is a tragedy, but this was more tragic than most. It was not the death of an old person, full of years and life, and ready for their end, but the sad passing of a young man, in the prime of his life, and the sole support of his aging mother. Great would have been the grieving. Great would have been the hopelessness of this situation for the young man’s mother. She was a widow, the young man her only son. Without any living male close relative she was now without property, now without income, totally dependent upon the mercy of her extended family, if they chose to look after her.
- What a terrible event. How would Jesus respond to such a situation? How would He feel? What would He do?
- And how does God respond to us in our times of grief? Can He do anything? Will He do anything? The answers to these, and other questions about God and our grief we will begin to discover today and over the next two Sundays.
Different types/causes of grief:
- First of all, it is important to know that we experience grief more often than we might think. True, we grieve over the death of someone we know, love and or depend upon, but we can also grieve when an important part of our life changes, when a long held hope is lost, or when one of our dreams dies. Essentially, we experience grief whenever we lose something that we value. It may not be a loss of total separation or destruction, it may just be a loss of close contact or intimacy.
Eg. When a family member moves far away, or into a nursing home, or suffers a disability.
- Secondly, it is important to know that grief is like a physical injury, especially a cut or a laceration. We often need to have it bound up and bandaged for a while to stop the bleeding and keep out the dirt. But to allow the wound to heal properly we also must allow it to be aired, washed, and cared for. If we do not it will heal very slowly, perhaps heal with a nasty scar, or even get infected and turn very bad. This can often happen if we hide or repress our grieving, or never allow ourselves to move on beyond the events that have caused it.
- To move on requires us to be able to openly grieve at appropriate times and with appropriate people. It is good to know that Jesus allows us to grieve and to mourn when we need to.
God has compassion for us when we grieve.
- Jesus and the widow of Nain. Luke 7:13 `When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”‘
- Jesus is acting out of His own compassion for the widow and her desperate need. `.. His heart went out to her…’ expansion upon the Greek phrase `He was filled with compassion’ – COMPASSION – Greek: splanchnizomai – to have compassion – refers to emotions coming from the `inward parts’ – the bowels, which in ancient times were regarded as being the source/seat/center of our emotions._
Jacob Bronowski’s Ascent of Man quote when speaking out against the horrors of Auschwitz: I beseech you from the very bowels of Christ.
- God is filled with compassion for us whenever we are grieving and will recognize our grief.
Psalms 10:14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Comfort – means to strengthen, or give strength to, does not necessarily mean taking the pain away or soothing, but rather giving strength to get through, to endure, to recover.
God will give us permission and space to grieve.
- The clearest permission we have from Jesus to express grief is Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” It contains not only permission to grieve, but also a promise of comfort.
In 2 Corinthians 7:6 Paul describes our God as the ” … God, who comforts the downcast..”
Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Christians are given permission to be able to share the full range of human emotions.
- God also gives us space and time to grieve. You can see this in the life of Jesus and other people mentioned in the Bible.
After hearing of the death of John the Baptist Matthew’s gospels tells us: When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. (Matt 14:13)
Elijah sent into solitude after the prophets of Baal defeated and Jezebel’s threat to kill – death of a dream??
After his dramatic and huge losses of family and property, Job’s friends sit quietly with him for the first 7 days of their time with him
Job 2:13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
- If we repress and hide away our grief we harm not only ourselves, but also give a false picture of the Christian life to other people. We can turn them away from the Faith because we give an impression of being either unfeeling people or false and empty hearted.
Tony Campolo story of Pastor’s family who refused to publicly, or even openly within the family, express their grief at the death of their youngest daughter. Pastor’s eldest son hears his father cursing God in the church. This turns him off the Christian faith as he sees it as all skin deep happiness etc.
Contrast to Scripture Union worker who shared his grief over the death of his father in New Zealand with family and friends. He was open about the numbness and apparent absence of God. Then one day, whilst running, he saw the gates of Heaven being opened before him.
God will bring us comfort/strength to help us through our grieving (people & promises).
Jesus wanting the disciples to be with Him in Gethsemane, and they fall asleep
Paul of Tarsus 2Co 7:4 I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. 5 For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Jesus is allowed a time of grieving when in the garden of Gethsemane before His arrest, trial, and execution.
While Jesus died for us and rose again at a specific point in space an time, God allows us time and space to hear the gospel, repent and believe. He is patient with our salvation, He is patient with our times of grieving.
Conclusion: Two elderly Christians experiencing grief.
Mrs A. – husband died suddenly at home in very domestic circumstances. For years afterwards would quietly make mention her husband’s death to someone every day. Very faithful to God in good works, church life etc, but apparently unable to move beyond the time of his passing.
Mr R. – His wife also died at home, and for a few weeks was understandably `grief stricken’ . But focused also upon the fact that his beloved wife of 50 years was now safe with Jesus and He could change his life to be more involved with others outside of his house and in the life of his church. He never denied missing his wife, but he was moving past the event or her death into the life that God had for him now.