Grief

Preaching and Worship Resources about Grief

Grief and mourning can't be avoided in our broken world, but for those willing to enter its dark valley with the risen Christ, grief yields to comfort and hope. At its heart, grief involves the loss of something or someone precious and important. Since we live in a world where death stalks, none of us can escape from the grasp of grief. We have two choices: enter into its pain or run away from it. Running away only postpones grief or turns it into something more dangerous, such as anger or despair.

In Scripture

Synonyms There is a constellation of terms in Greek and Hebrew that are used quite interchangeably for grief. They include mourning, pain, and suffering. For example, the classic rendering of the passage in Isaiah 53 states that the suffering Servant is "acquainted with grief." However, several newer translations decided the precise word is suffering or pain. The Beatitude in Matthew 5 is nearly universally translated "blessed are those who mourn." Nevertheless, it seems that the meaning of all these words is quite similar: they each point to the experience of loss.

Grief in Death and Sin In numerous instances people mourn for those who have died (Gen. 23:2, 1 Sam. 16:1); in others they experience grief as a result of sin (Num. 14:39, Is. 61:3, James 4:9).

Because of his true humanity, Jesus is pictured as one capable of grief and sadness. As depicted in Isaiah 53, the "suffering Servant" is acquainted with "grief (pain, suffering)"

Also, at the grave of Lazarus, (John 11), we see Jesus in tears, conveying both grief and anger at the icy grip of death. His agitation and tears seem to be stimulated by his empathy with the grief and pain of Mary, Martha, and the other mourners (John 11:33).

The Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-12) describe the upside-down reality of the kingdom of God, in which experiences usually classified as bad are depicted as "blessed." So also, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." In the kingdom, the experience of loss and grief is blessed because it will lead to the comfort and joy of salvation when we walk through it with the Lord.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul comforts people who have lost those near and dear to them by calling them to mourn, but not "as others do who have no hope." He implies that the mourning itself is good when it is accompanied by the hope of resurrection.

In Luke 6:25, Jesus rebukes those who "are laughing now" for they "will mourn and weep." When we refuse to enter into the grief of sin and death, we will discover that it is the only way to the liberating joy of the gospel.

Points to Ponder

Granger Westberg published the groundbreaking book "Good Grief" fifty years ago. It caused a sea change in the understanding of the psychology of grief from a Christian perspective. Westberg emphasized that grief is a good and necessary response to the universal experience of loss, and, if it is avoided, the pain of loss will only be more destructive.

There is no way around grief, but there is a way through it.

Death is not the only cause of grief. Practically any loss, whether of status, money, friendship, health, or hopes and dreams, can trigger the very same feelings with their exact intensity.

Woodrow Kroll "We rejoice in spite of our grief, not in place of it."

Joan Didion "We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all."

Anne Lamott "The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it . . . I would discover that it hadn't washed me away."


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.