Some Thoughts on Grief, Loss and Adversity

One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 121.  It says: “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

As you read this your heart might be heavy.  Maybe you’ve experienced the loss of someone special.  Maybe your going through a time of challenge.  Possibly you feel like you’re in a hole that is hard to climb out of.  Regardless of your adversity, the present time is most likely a wonderful opportunity for God to show His merciful love and bountiful care.  Psalm 121 is a song of ascents; a hymn sung while Israelites went to the tabernacle/temple to worship. For those in Biblical times, the mountains represented trouble and obstacle. In a pedestrian society, the hills surrounding Jerusalem were difficult to navigate and they also were the home of thieves. You took your life into your own hands if you had to travel over the hills. The answer to such obstacles is God.

Regardless of your level of spiritual knowledge, be assured of this: God graciously gives His help to those who ask for it. He wants us to come to Him. The same God who made the universe is concerned about you! That’s why He sent His Son Jesus to this earth so long ago. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Coming to Him is an act of faith. When we refrain from doing so, we rob ourselves of peace and the learning experience that adversity can teach us. The old hymn goes: “Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

In the New Testament, God was about help.  Jesus said in John 14:26: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Jesus described Him as our “Helper,” and “the Spirit of truth.” God continues to be about help. And oh, don’t we need the Holy Spirit during these times!? I venture to say that we cannot endure the heartaches of life without the tangible help of God. 

Let the following bits of encouragement help you along your way:

Life is short, often surprising, and yet a gift. Being here is a privilege. The Bible says that we are given 70 or 80 years, if we’re blessed. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Anything could happen. A car accident; a disease, something else. We are not invincible and none of us are promised tomorrow. Unexpected tragedies happen. Tornadoes, hurricanes, a diagnosis. When faced with a question surrounding a known tragedy involving a barbaric act by Pontius Pilate upon defenseless people of Galilee. Jesus responded in Luke 13: “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them– do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

We live in a sinful world where bad things happen all around us. Ever since the day of the fall, when the first couple disobeyed God in the garden, things have not been right. And bad things happen. Time is a spiritual opportunity. That is why we need to turn from sin and turn to Jesus Christ. He died for us and provided atonement for our transgressions. Only a life found in Him can produce spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. And because we live in the information age, we hear more about events and we hear of more events than we sometimes should. The world is sinful. We need Jesus. Apart from Him we can do no good thing (John 15:5).

Tragedy teaches us that relationships are invaluable. Petty arguments and disagreements are not near as important as telling someone that you love them. Getting angry is not the answer to most if not all of the situations we encounter. Kids, remind your parents how special they are. Moms and Dads, tell your children that you love them. Hug your spouse. We’re only here for a short time. No better time than the present to express your love and what they mean to you. If relationships were not important, why is the church made of people? Why does the Bible list so many “one-another’s”? Love one another; serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, and forgive one another. Jobs may end; plans don’t materialize; disappointment will come. But we need each other. God and relationships matter. If they did not, why did Jesus tell us that the two greatest commandments were to love God and love neighbor?

At all times, we need God. Psalm 46:1 tells us that God is close, especially to those who call upon Him at a time of tragedy. It says: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” The Holy Spirit was sent from God to help us, especially during times as these. The Lord has the ability to “prop” you up during your time of loss, much like Aaron propped up Moses during a needy time in Israel’s history (Read Exodus 17:8-16).  Although your path seems dark, God is able to carry you through in a miraculous way.

But God desires two things from us as He helps us. Those things are repentance and faith. Repentance simply means to turn; it implies turning from our way of living to God’s way of living. It also implies asking forgiveness for the things we have done. Next is faith. Faith does not mean believing that there is a god. Most people believe that there is a god. In contrast, Biblical faith means giving God your life; trusting Him, following Him. Remember Jesus words in Matthew 11: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me….’ The yoke was a piece of wood that kept the oxen in team and to their task. Jesus asked us to take His yoke and apply it to our lives. It implies submission and a willingness to follow Him, to trust Him, to obey Him.

Grief also comes in waves.  It is important that when a time of sorrow comes, to accomodate it.  There is no shame in shedding tears.  Someone once said that our ability to cry is God’s release valve in our lives.  It is important to let it out, so that relief, albeit temporary, may come.

May God grant you grace and help in your time of need.

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