You Have Permission to Grieve
By Joel Greenwood
Earlier this week, I attended the funeral of a friend who worked in full-time ministry. She spent her life in complete dedication to helping others grow closer to God, and she had faith that was rock-solid in Christ. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about where her faith and salvation lie, yet I still found myself grieving her loss, along with hundreds of other people who knew her.
Sometimes, when we grieve the loss of others, we wonder all sorts of things. As Christ-followers who believe Jesus overcame death and invites us to do the same, we wonder, is it okay to grieve and cry? Are we allowed to become angry about death? How should Christians grieve?
Looking to Scripture, we can find three different observations that lend us some insight into the grieving process as believers in God.
1. It’s okay to grieve.
In John 11, Jesus arrives in Bethany, and he asks to be taken to the tomb of his friend Lazarus, who died several days earlier. As he approaches the tomb, Jesus weeps. Jesus, who was fully human and fully God, who had the power to raise the dead, and who knew that this death of Lazarus was not permanent, grieves the death of his friend.
Jesus, in his humanity, grieved. He shows us through example that it IS okay to grieve when we lose someone we love.
2. It’s okay to ask “why?”
If you’re familiar with the story of Job, you know his story is one of loss. He loses his family and all his possessions in Job 1 and 2. Through the next 38 chapters, he and his friends continually ask the question “Why?” Why is he forced to endure this suffering? What has he done to deserve this?
In Job’s case, he doesn’t receive the perfect answer he hopes to find. However, he receives assurance from God that God is with him, and he has the option to trust that God sees the big picture, even when Job can’t.
As for us, it IS okay to raise the questions our grief will inevitably bring up. While we are not guaranteed a perfect answer to those questions while we live on earth, we have the same assurance Job had: God is with us, and he hears our cries.
3. Christians grieve with hope.
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church, he reminds them that, when we grieve, we grieve with hope, because we know that our physical death is not the end when Christ is our Savior.
Aside from the hope-filled reminder that we have life through Christ that extends beyond the grave, Paul communicates also that grief and hope are not incompatible. When we’re tempted to believe that our grief is a sign of doubt, we can find assurance in knowing grief and hope can go hand in hand.
If you’re a Christian who is grieving, know that it IS okay to grieve. As we grieve, questions will surface, and it IS okay to ask those questions, both to God and to others. Finally, as we grieve, let us remember the hope we have in an eternal life that extends beyond our physical lives. Grief and hope can exist at the same time; you have permission to grieve.