Deep grief is not anti-religious or none-Christian. “For the greater the love the greater the grief, and the stronger the faith the more savagely will Satan storm its fortress (Douglas H. Gresham in A Grief Observed).” I would argue that deep grief is actually a sign of deep love. Pain is as one of Lewis’ children wrote, “the price that our imperfection has allowed Satan to exact from us for the privilege of love.”
The bible seems to teach us that deep grief can and should be our response to the worlds brokeness EVEN for those who see God’s bigger plan for the pain. For example, in the story of Lazarus it says, “Jesus wept” over Lazarus’ death. Jesus knew God’s plan for Lazarus’ death. Jesus knew that he would raise Lazarus. Why did Jesus cry? He had a perspective that fixed and explained the sorrow, but he still cried. The brokenness of the world deserves tears sometimes. Death is something to grieve about EVEN though God has a plan for it. Correct perspective doesn’t nullify deep sorrow.
Paul addresses something similar when he wrote, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13)..” Paul wrote this to the Thessalonian church (apparently) because they had asked him about the subject. They may have asked, “what happens to someone who was a Christian and who died before Jesus second coming.” Paul purpose for writing this was to give the church hope for those believers who had died. What I find interesting, and what is relevant to my subject, is the fact that this text implies that grief still exists. Paul could have said, “don’t be sad for them, they will rise again” but he doesn’t. Instead, he describes a specific kind of grief that is appropriate for people to feel about those who have passed. He says, “that you may not grieve as OTHERS do who have no hope.” So Christian grief is to be a, with hope kind of grief. My point is that there is still grief.
I love the honesty of C.S. Lewis as he processed the loss of his wife. He writes:
Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand. Lewis, C. S. (2009-06-02). A Grief Observed (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewi) (p. 18). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
Christianity (religion as Lewis calls it) doesn’t delete pain. What value is Christianity if its function is not to elevate the sufferings of life? This is one of the most fundamental misunderstandings of Christianity. I’ve heard it said that there is no down side to believing in Christ whether you are right or wrong about Him. They argue that Christianity helps one live a moral, pleasant, and comforted life, regardless of the truth of it. As if to say, “If the gospel is real I am safe, and if it is not, I didn’t lose anything.” This is NOT at all what scripture teaches. On the contrary, we are told in 1 Cor. 15, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Christianity is not about a lack of suffering, rather it is about a KIND of suffering that brings praise to God. If the sign of a good Christian were a lack of sorrow than the author of our faith, namely Jesus, was not a good Christian. If we look at Christ as our example, we will suffer much, weep much, and endure much.
So what is this KIND of suffering that we are supposed to be doing as believers?
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, ESV)
This text and many others give us a picture of how we are to suffer. Note how this text doesn’t lessen the pain of life, it just redeems it, “to show the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”