by James Rudy GrayGod Uses Grief as a Growth Tool
C. S. Lewis once noted that grief feels like fear. Grief is the pain, hurt, or sorrow of loss. In his work, A Grief Observed, he wrote, "Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection-the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state, but a process. It needs not a map but a history."
Some counselors have referred to grieving as emotional vomiting. Grief often hits us suddenly and unexpectedly. Painful feelings can surprise us weeks, months or even years after the loss event.
There is a very significant difference in the way Christians can grieve from their lost counterparts. The difference is hope or confident expectation. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul wrote, "We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope." Evangelist Vance Havner used to say in reference to Christians who had experienced the death of a loved one, "You haven't lost anything when you know where it is."
The pain of grief is very real for the Christian, but the reality of being reunited with their saved loved one is a consoling fact.
Generally, the feelings grief brings can include shock, anger, depression, distress, panic, guilt, denial, resistance, etc. Good grief is when we work through the feelings with the truth of God's eternal Word. Hope is the great tool God has given for His child to use when death takes a fellow believer. It is more than simply a coping mechanism, it is an agent for growth.
Grief is a process, a passage we take. It is not a condition for life or place where we live forever. The process of working through the feelings of loss will take time-two years or so. While residual sensitivity to the loss may always be present, the ministry of God's comfort is also present.
Some grief workers estimate that on averages it takes a person approximately 10 hours of sharing their feelings of grief over a period of about six months. One study found that mothers who had experienced the death of a child grieved more the second year than the first.
Truth can set us free from the pain of grief. However, this will most always be gradual. This time of sorrow brings a test of faith and a time to use our godly resources. Hebrews 4:15 says: "We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."
The Holy Spirit is here to support and help us. He knows. When we are in the valley of sorrow, just to know He knows brings its own kind of comfort.
Grief takes time. Unresolved grief brings with it a variety of problems. We must face the reality of our loss, and use the resources of God-what and who He has provided for us. By the grace of God, as Lewis noted, grief does become a part of our personal history that can help us to grow deeper in our walk with Christ.
For the Christian, we must grieve…with hope.
James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors