Grief is Inevitable
Over 300 years ago, Christopher Bullock (1716) wrote, “Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes.” His observation resonated with people. The saying took hold and prevails to this day. Why? Because we all recoil at the thought of death and taxes! That said, death is the worst of the two. After all, taxes may be unfair, but mostly they are just prepaid bills that serve to pay our way through society. Unjust taxes may make us angry, but we don’t grieve them like we grieve death. Death is always ugly. It marks the finality of life on this Earth. And it leaves loved ones grieving.
Not All Forms of Grieving are Healthy
Culturally, it is commonplace to view all expressions of grief as acceptable. Truly, there are many ways to grieve, but if the Gospel is not permitted to inform us in our grief, we will end up stuck in it. We will end up feeling hopeless and eventually numb to life. Any grief that leaves us stuck is a grief uninformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Offers Us Hope!
In the Gospels, Jesus’ message and example when faced with death is powerfully informative. We never encounter Jesus stuck in grief. Rarely is he silent. And he’s definitely never passive. As the Great Pastor of the church, you would almost expect that Jesus spent a lot of time attending funerals and seeking to comfort people in the way local church pastors do. But Jesus never presides over a funeral. He doesn’t even attend them as a respectful guest offering his condolences to the family. Instead, when encountering the dead and their grieving families, he tended to step forward, bring the dead back to life and offer words of resurrection hope!
- In Luke 7, he raises to life the son of a widow from Nain. The result: people praise God! (Luke 7:16)
- In Matthew 9, Jesus raises to life the synagogue ruler’s daughter and people are in awe.
- In John 11, Jesus raises his friend Lazarus to life and tells his sisters that his delay was tied to his desire see God glorified (John 11:40).
It is notable that Mary and Martha were not thrilled with Jesus’ absence on the day Lazarus died. They had faith Jesus could have healed him, and they believed in the resurrection (John 11:24). Their problem was not a matter of belief. They believed the right things. But they had not allowed their beliefs to tame their grief, spill over into hope and glorify God!
In all of this, Jesus was not without emotion. He even cried in the presence of Martha and Mary when he observed their grief (John 11:35). But his tears appear to be in response to Mary’s grief and perhaps her lack of faith (John 11:32-34). While Jesus came to conquer sin and death, he also came to help us see that in conquering them, their impact upon us is now limited, and the way we grieve them is overshadowed by our firm faith in a life to come!
So go ahead and grieve. It’s okay. But remember Jesus’ words and example. Think about the life that awaits us beyond death (and taxes!). Think about the victory Christ has secured to help us face death head on, and look beyond death’s ugliness to the beauty of resurrection life.