By Jan Null
Good Grief! For many people, these words conjure Charlie Brown and Snoopy, cartoon images drawn by Charles Schulz. In just a few weeks on November 26, we celebrate National Good Grief Day to remember him. On February 12, 2000, readers opened the newspaper to see his final entry. Schulz, the creative mind behind Charlie Brown, had died. And America grieved.
All of us have experienced grief; few of us would call it “good.” Grief comes in many forms. The most common would be the loss of a dear relative, a child, or close friend. But grief can also come with the death of a dream, a serious health challenge, an unexpected financial setback. Grief may simply be the realization that things will never return to the way they once were. Separation in many forms can send us spiraling into a season of grief. Great disappointment, great change, great pain.
As a believer, it is vital to differentiate that our grieving is very different from those in the world. The unbeliever grieves without hope. Not us! We know the one who died and rose again. We grieve with great hope! How God wired us to know deep sorrow and great hope is a deep mystery.
For many, it’s easy to think our grieving is complete and we are adjusting well. But in just a few weeks, the holidays arrive and, like a dark cloud, we are tossed unexpectedly into short moments or long days to revisit deep sorrow and unexpected tears. That first Thanksgiving without mom, memories of a spouse who has passed, a family Christmas with shadows of divorce or whatever the loss… let’s be honest, it’s tough. Let’s talk about “good grief” and how God would have us walk through a dark season.
Jesus himself experienced grief at the loss of his friend, Lazarus, as recorded in John 11. He wept. Visualize that: Jesus arrived four days after the burial of his friend and our Savior cried. Even when he knew the end of the story, that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, he wept. We mourn our loss because we are wired to love. Jesus is our example and he shows that great love leads to great grief.
Paul conveys words of comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:4. Blessed be 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 received from God. Two very important things stand out in this passage:
- Our Heavenly Father is the source of our comfort. He gives comfort in ALL our troubles. Whatever the loss, he is your comfort; the Shepherd cares for his own. Allow the very God of all comfort to be your comfort in the midst of your grief.
- Secondly, we see the very reason he comforts us is so that we can comfort others with the same comfort that we have received from God. It’s “good grief.” It has a purpose. It glues God’s family together as we care for one another.
Where this falls apart is when we fail to be transparent and honest with one another. If I give the appearance that I am just fine but am actually an emotional train wreck, I steal the gift of comfort that might be given. If I am transparent in the midst of sorrow, a comforter can give a hug, a word of encouragement, and prayer. The church needs to be a safe place to be real with one another. That only happens when we practice emotional honesty.
Perhaps it is wise to look at grief like this. If we are grieving, then we must have loved someone greatly. If we are grieving the loss of a dear friend, there are sweet memories to ponder. If you realize that things will never be the way they used to be, embrace the truth that God is in it and he paves the road ahead. And, if God chooses to use you to comfort others, consider that a divine service call to share the comfort you once needed.