Grief is real. Grief is hard. Grief does not go away. But grief is not an enemy, for those who are in Christ. Death has no victory, for those who are in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55). “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning,” for those who are in Christ (Psalm 30:5). Grief is a close ally of hope, for those who are in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13). I thank God for the gift of grief, which is meant to lead us to put our trust in Him and nothing else.
Ten years ago this week, I learned what grief is. As I processed the reality that my father had breathed his last, and as I started working through funeral arrangements, grief became an unavoidable and constant presence. And an enduring presence. A decade later, the grief is not as sharp or intense as it was back then, but it is still very much a part of me. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t long for my dad to help with a house project or play with his grandchildren or go see a movie with me.
In recent days and months, almost all of us have become more acquainted with grief. Either we’ve suffered a loss in our own lives, or we’ve mourned the death and destruction that shows up in the headlines daily.
Like love or joy or hope, grief is not less than an emotion, but it is also much more. And certainly, love and joy are tightly connected with grief. We cannot truly grieve something or someone unless we love them first and take joy in them. It would be natural to think of grief as the opposite of joy, or the absence of love, but that’s not quite right. Grief seems more like joy interrupted, or love recalibrated, or hope deferred. Our love for someone does not evaporate when they have “fallen asleep” (to use a biblical expression). The joy of the relationship does not diminish.
None of us wants to carry the burden of grief, but grief is not our enemy. Death is the enemy. Sin is the enemy. Satan is the enemy. Grief, on the other hand, is a gift. Why a gift? Because grief helps us remember what we would never want to forget. Or it helps us remember that which we shouldn’t forget.
Perhaps most significantly, grief declares that things in this world are not as they should be. Joy is not meant to be interrupted; love is not meant to be recalibrated. And grief dares us to believe that what is broken will one day be restored. As C. S. Lewis observed, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
As a unique kind of desire, grief amplifies this sentiment as much as anything else in life.