Path from Grief to Joy
When we experience loss, it is natural to grieve. However, many people don’t know how to grieve. They may not have witnessed their parents grieving and learned to suppress their grief as a result. Or, they may have allowed grief to overtake them and turn them into bitter, hardened people. Neither is the right response.
There is a path from grief to joy, but it is not the five stages of grief that most of us have been taught. David Kessler, who co-wrote with the famed author Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explains, “The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order.”
Grief is an individual process that varies from one person to the next. However, there is still hope that you can move beyond your grief. Howard A. Eyrich explains, “Our help and hope are not found in working through the secular stages of grief, but in allowing ourselves to experience our emotions while processing our loss in a biblical manner.”
While the path from grief to joy will not look the same for everyone, there are some things hurting individuals can do to help them move forward. To help us tackle this difficult topic, we are using Howard A. Eyrich’s Grief: Learning to Live with Loss.
Why We Grieve
God created us to have emotions, including grief. Moreover, God created us to live in relationship with others, so the loss of relationships should be felt.
According to The Gospel Coalition, “First, Christianity insists that we grieve because something is wrong. There’s much good in this world, all of which comes from God. Yet brokenness pervades it all. Why? Because in the Garden of Eden, humanity’s relationship with God was fractured. The fall flung open the door to sin, suffering, and death. Second, Christianity insists that God has handcrafted each person on the planet. There is intrinsic value, therefore, to every human being […]”
Grief is Real
At some point after experiencing a loss, it is important to recognize your grief is real and valid. Many people never move from grief to joy because they get stuck here. They refuse to acknowledge their grief and attempt to push it down instead.
Eyrich writes, “[Grief] is felt physically. It is felt emotionally. It is felt spiritually. Sometimes our bodies hurt as our souls agonize. Sometimes we feel like we will burst from the pressure of our emotional turmoil.” You see, hiding this pain doesn’t make it go away. It will only make it harder to move forward. We must face the sad reality, express our emotions, honor those we’ve lost, and then, move forward.
In the Book of Thessalonians, Paul writes to the church of Thessalonica. In it, he speaks to the people about those who have died. He “begins with the reality: the Thessalonians will no longer have them in their lives. He affirms their grief, but he limits it, ‘so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope’ (4:13)” (Eyrich).
Grieving in the Bible
There are many more mentions of grief beyond Paul’s letter to the church of Thessalonica. Throughout the Bible, people die and those still living experience grief. Abraham grieved the loss of his wife Sarah. He wept at her loss. Joseph grieved at the loss of his father. David grieved the loss of his child. Mary and Martha grieved the loss of their brother. Just to name a few.
And, Jesus wept (John 11:35). Eyrich explains, “Here we see the heart of Jesus for each of us who experiences the ravages of sin in the death of a loved one.”
Grief is Shaped by Faith
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
Paul told the Thessalonians that they are not to grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope. The reason they have hope is because they have Jesus! Eyrich explains, “In other words, if we are believers, then our grief is limited by our faith. […] The message of the apostle Paul is that we do not have to experience grief in the same way as those who have no hope. We know that Jesus has removed ‘the sting of death’ and replaced it with eternal life (1 Cor. 15:54-57).”
Moreover, for those who have a firm foundation, we can trust in what we know and believe about God. Eyrich says, “Understanding that God is sovereign (the control of everything), omniscient (all-knowing), loving (that he sought us out even when we were his enemies), and omnipotent (all-powerful) enables us to see God as greater than our grief experiences of life.”
Finally, we can trust God to comfort us as we grieve. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Grief Shapes Us
King Solomon said, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better” (Eccl. 7:3) – if you let it. Grief shapes you, either positively or negatively.
Eyrich explains, “The danger comes when we allow our grief to become so great that it overpowers other things in our lives that God says we ought not to let slip. When experiencing heartaches, we can easily allow sorrow to fill our lives to such an extent that we stop thinking about those things that generate love, joy, peace, and the other fruit of the Spirit.”
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
Instead of allowing yourself to be filled with sorrow, be filled with the Holy Spirit. “Then, by the Spirit’s enabling power, you will have to work hard at getting your sorrow back down to a manageable level. […] Rather than thinking only of what you’ve lost, think about how God may be using your loss to benefit you. Rather than thinking about how miserable you are, ponder how you can make someone else happy.”
Grief is Temporary
Finally, it is important to remember that grief is temporary. When you are wrestling deeply with grief, it feels unending. But, for those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, death isn’t permanent. Earth is just our temporary home because Jesus defeated death on the cross. Eternity awaits!
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-57