Posted by Nathan Warner on

“Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).

Grief is a natural response to our condition in a fallen, broken world—all natural grief relates to the effects of Adam’s sin upon creation, our own sin in our lives, and the sin of our neighbors: pain, frustration, death, loss, separation, cruelty, horror, wickedness, evil. 

God did not create the world this way, but man’s rebellion brought this reality upon it, and in response, “the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:22), and “we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23b) —a redemption from our sin-nature and sin’s effects on all nature, even our own bodies.  We are to grieve in the world for sin and its effects as “men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst” (Ez. 9:4b). 

So it is no surprise that Scripture tells us Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3).  When His close friend, Lazarus died, Jesus saw Mary weeping for her brother and “He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled...Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:33b-35) —He wept, even though He knew He would be raising Lazarus back from the dead in a short time.  Jesus grieved the effects of sin upon the world— the loss and separation of pain and death that caused such sorrow.  And even though He raised Lazarus from the dead, He knew Lazarus would still die a natural death, for the redemption of his body is still ahead of us in the resurrection. 

When Jesus approached His own death, “He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death’” (Matt. 26:37-38).  Jesus was going to experience an unnatural separation from life and from His loved ones, but more so, He would experience a separation from His Holy Father when sin fell on Him for the first time on the cross.  Jesus also grieved for all the unrepentant as He would taste their eternal separation from God for their sin—just as God “was grieved in His heart” (Gen. 6:6) over man’s sin, for He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pt. 3:9b, KJV)

Paul echoes Christ’s grief for the lost: “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren” (Rom. 9:1-3b), who were rejecting Jesus and would be separated from God and from Paul for all eternity if they did not repent.  Yet, Paul did not grieve in despair, and in like manner, we must entrust ourselves, our Brothers, and our unbelieving family and neighbors to our God Who is righteous and just and does not wish any to perish. 

Paul acknowledges God intends us to grieve the effects of sin by instructing us to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).  The only injunction that Scripture gives us is that we should “not grieve as do the rest who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).  Namely, we should not despair in our grief.  For we will be restored in eternity.  Still, that can be small comfort in the here-and-now, so we should not judge as “unhealthy” those who grieve.  Rather, let us comfort them in our sorrow for their pain.

Grief is part of this fallen life and it is contrary to God’s Word to teach that Believers should not grieve.  Indeed, it is only in eternity when God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).  Only then will God undo the effects of sin and rebellion on the natural order through His Son’s restoration and regeneration of all the earth.  Even so, Amen!

Tags: jesus, hope, sorrow, pain, death, restoration, reunion, separation, mourning, grief, despair, natural, hopelessness, loss, grieve, unnatural, saddness


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