God’s Wisdom and Comfort for Troubled Times: Good Grief
You may have picked up this booklet or opened the website because you have experienced the loss of someone or something. The loss may have been sudden and unexpected or slow and anticipated. Either way its reality weighs heavily upon you. Anguished feelings and thoughts crowd in, and it seems so hard to make sense of it all. You may be thinking, “Just give me time. I’m numb right now.” Or you may be saying, “I don’t want to think about it now.” Or you may be asking, “Why this? Why now? Why me? Why us? ” In your perplexity you may ask, “How do I go on; is there any help or hope?” The Bible presents God’s wisdom and comfort for troubled times. This is what you need!
Good Grief: God’s Answers are Superior
Please beware! Even as a believer, you are vulnerable to all types of advice; there are many voices vying for your attention. They may tell you: “let go” of your feelings, “try some self-help book,” “go to grief counseling,” “take medications,” “suck-it-up,” or “just leave it to time.” However, what you need is reliable counsel that is sound, clear, and time-proven. Listen to what God says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
v.16: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness
v.17: so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work
You will find satisfying answers only in the Bible. For your well-being and the blessings of those around you, it is essential for you to seek God’s counsel – God’s wisdom and comfort – as He has revealed it in Scripture. God has provided the Bible as the owner’s manual for your life. When you rightly apply biblical truth God is glorified, life is simplified, and it is best for you. These are God’s promises as summarized in 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. God’s faithfulness is the cornerstone of hope and comfort in any and every situation.
This booklet: God’s wisdom and comfort for troubled times – is designed to help you respond properly to loss and to grieve in a God-honoring way. I can’t cover all that the Bible says about grief, but I shall give you enough to help you get victory in your current situation.
“Get victory?” you say incredulously: “What is victory anyway? How can I think about victory at a time like this? I feel so bad – so alone, so empty, so confused, and overwhelmed. I need to feel better so I can get through this. I just need to cope so I can hang on and get by.” Gently but firmly I say to you: “Whoa!”
God doesn’t intend for you to settle for merely feeling better, “getting by” or “coping.” Rather, God made you to be “more than a conqueror” in every aspect of life, especially in adversity. This involves proper thinking and wanting. Feelings are linked to each one and they form a triad. The bible never directs the believer to change feelings. It focuses on thoughts and desires. These are foundational truths of God’s wisdom and comfort for troubled times.
As a believer, you are not a victim but a victor through Christ because of your personal relationship with Him. Christ conquered what you could not and your fellowship with Him guarantees that you too can function as a victor now. Consider Romans 8:35-37:
v.35: Who shall separate us from the love Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
v.36: As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
v.37: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Your relationship with Christ is the key to responding to your loss in a God-honoring manner. Otherwise, you will respond in a way that displeases God, others, and yourself. As a believer you have everything you need for all of life and godliness (2 Peter 1: 3-4). Those facts should give you help, hope, and an entirely new perspective as you think about your changed life. Are you catching a glimpse of the beauty of God’s wisdom and comfort for troubled times?
Good Grief: God’s Answers that Lead to Victory
“Moments” ago you were stunned by the mention of victory at a time like this. How does this victory come about and what is this victory? Victory comes about because you are united to Christ. He has an eternal relationship with you that became a reality when you were saved. It is producing blessings in you that you must call to your thinking. God will never leave you and never forsake you. He did that to His Son on the cross in your place. Christ was alone but you are not!
Victory occurs because you have access to God’s wisdom and comfort – truth, which when rightly applied produces victorious living especially in hard times. Victory then is living according to biblical principles. It is rejoicing in God’s wisdom and comfort. As you do, you will respond to God’s providential workings whatever they may be in a way that brings glory to Him and benefit to you. Such is God’s wisdom and comfort for and in trouble.
God’s answers are surpassingly superior to all others. Here are three that should help you shout “Victory!” First and foremost, God, the Creator, is Lord of this world. Nothing is out of control – absolutely nothing! If one molecule or event is out of control and “doing its own thing,” God would not be sovereign and He would not be God! His wisdom and comfort for trouble times would be useless!
Your understanding, wants, and feelings may say otherwise, but they are no match for God’s controlled, purposeful plan which is part of God’s wisdom and comfort. He gives and expects to the believer both easy and hard times and expects and equips believers to use both for His glory and for your good. Your circumstances don’t change the fact. Hear this believer: your God is trustworthy! Such is God’s wisdom and comfort!
Second, Scripture loudly proclaims that God sees, hears, comforts, delivers, and strengthens the needy, oppressed, orphaned, afflicted, humbled, brokenhearted, powerless, and downtrodden (See Psalm 9:7-18; 10:12-18; 18:1-2; 34:18; 46:1-3). This is an expression of God’s wisdom and comfort!
At times, all of us hurt in some way. That is part of the curse on Adam’s first sin (Romans 5:12-14). Sin, misery, and death are realities in a fallen word. Yet God has promised to be our refuge, strength, and help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1-3, 10; Romans 5:6-10). Throughout history He proved to be the ultimate Promise-maker and -keeper. Today, you can expect God to continue to keep His promises. Such is God’s wisdom and comfort!
The cross is the ultimate expression of a good, wise, holy, and powerful God’s continuing care for needy people. Remember, Jesus was “afflicted and oppressed,” a “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3-6). As your Substitute, Jesus was forsaken by the Father in your place. The Father will not forsake you now or at any time before you go to heaven. The Father ministered to Jesus and raised Him from the dead and seated Him in heavenly places at His right hand. The glorified Lord of Lords is now the victorious King of Kings (Psalms 8:5-8; Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:8-11; Hebrews 2:6-9).
Third, the Bible speaks about change and how a believer should respond to it. As a result of Adam’s first sin, mankind lost unity with God. With sin, came misery and death. Ultimately, grief is due to man’s fundamental loss – a right relationship with God. Because all sinned in Adam, no one is immune to the effects of the fall. As you are painfully aware, change and loss are common experiences. Therefore, the key issue is not the loss but how you will respond to it. As a Christian, God has equipped you with the Holy Spirit and His Word to enable you to respond properly and victoriously to all of His providential workings. This includes your loss.
God’s Superior Resources are Superior
In His mercy God has not left you to fend for yourself during the dark hours of your loss and grief. He has given you resources to gain victory here in this life and to prepare you for heaven (1 John 3:1-3). As I said, the first resource is your relationship with Christ. Because you were formerly His enemy, there was no humanly-valid reason for God to place you in fellowship with Him (Romans 5:6-10). Yet because of who He is, He loved, graced, justified, adopted, and extending compassion and mercy to His former enemies He did. Christ’s life, death on the cross, and resurrection are proof of God’s essence and Being: love, light, and truth.
Not only that, God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in you. One function of the Spirit is to help you understand and apply biblical truth to every circumstance including how you should grieve. “So,” you ask, “What are some specific truths that I can apply right now?”
Truth #1 to Gain a Biblical Understanding of Grief: the triune God
The first specific truth is that a powerful, good, and wise God has given utmost attention in His Word to the loss and grief that you are (and others will be) experiencing. The triune God is infinite in wisdom. He knows what is best. He is perfect in love. He wills what is best. He is zealous and jealous for himself and His family. He is completely sovereign. He does what is best. Feelings and circumstances don’t change these truths.
God knows that grief is a common, almost predictable response to serious change. Scripture has a variety of words for grief, mourning, and sadness. By understanding these words in their context, you will become well acquainted with God’s perspective on loss and grief. In contrast, fallen man is continually developing “theories” and ideas about life that oppose biblical truth, in spite of the fact that God has provided sufficient, satisfying teaching on the subject. This booklet is designed to help you search the Scriptures so that you will find the joy of God’s truth (Acts 17:11).
Truth #2 to Gain a Biblical Understanding of Grief: the Cross
The second specific truth pertaining to God’s wisdom and comfort is the cross of Christ and His view of loss. There are important biblical principles to be gleaned when considering the cross. Properly understood, they will help you respond in a God-honoring way to change and loss. Among other things, the cross teaches that: 1) loss is part of life; 2) loss responded to rightly brings great rewards; 3) conversely, loss responded to wrongly complicates life by bringing only aggravation and discontentment.
You may be thinking, “How can something that hurts so badly be beneficial?” That is an excellent question to which God gives an excellent answer: The cross shows how gain comes from loss. Christ’s loss at Calvary resulted in a threefold gain – gain for the Father, for Christ, and for the believer.
For the Father, Christ secured the Father’s glory at His own expense in order for God to gain a people – and right now that includes you! (Luke 1:68; 7:16; John 6:37-43; 17:1-2). Amazingly, through the cross, God’s enemies, who were far removed from Him, became His children.
For Himself, Christ gained His rightful place in heaven as the glorified, risen Lord. Moreover, He gained His bride, the Church, to share in His glory for all eternity (Luke 24:26; John 17:22; Hebrews 2:9-10). As I have emphasized, you gained a personal relationship with Christ.
As a result of that relationship, your gain is threefold: salvation, the privilege of growing and changing into Christlikeness, and heaven. Growing in Christlikeness is God’s design for you and is the only successful way for you is to face loss by pleasing God. When you do, that is victory.
One aspect of being in Christ is that you are a new creature with the motivation and capacity to become more like Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). Down deep, you will discover the joy of that motivation, as you diligently seek to please God. The fact that God brought gain out of Christ’s loss should be a great encouragement for you to use your loss to become more like Christ. Viewing your personal loss through the cross will enable you to be victorious by using what is hard to become more like Christ.
Christ’s life and death demonstrate the principle of gain through loss. Therefore, you must be sure that you have a good understanding of Christ’s loss. In the final analysis, you must compare your loss to Christ’s. His loss included humiliation in becoming a man, living among sin-cursed people, being rejected by them, and going to the cross as your suffering Sin-bearer. The exalted One humbled Himself and gave up His place of preeminence for a time in order to save, protect, guide, and care for hurting, helpless, hopeless people like you.
However, His greatest loss was the separation that He as the God-man experienced – He was forsaken, rejected, and considered a Loser by the triune God! This seems impossible and it is beyond human comprehension However, the fact is highlighted and remains true: Jesus’ cross-centered focus His road to victory and it is to be yours as well.
In order for Christ to complete His mediatorial work, He hid His glory for the time He was on earth. He became man. He added humanity to His deity. He became something that He was not! Consider a feeble example in an effort to picture the great cost to Christ. Imagine the heat, size, and position of the sun. At its surface the temperature is reported to be 10,000 degrees F and at its center the temperature measures something like 27 million degrees! It is larger than the earth, the largest star, and the center of our galaxy giving up that place of preeminence. The sun comes closer to earth. You would expect total annihilation. But an amazing thing happens: no one dies!
How is that possible? The sun would have to hide its power, heat, and brilliance – it would not be recognized as the sun. That would be a miracle! And that is exactly what Jesus did at the incarnation. He was fully God but chose to hide His glory so He could accomplish the Father’s will (Philippians 2:5-8).
Though Christ’s loss was infinitely great, He gave full attention to what He would gain rather than on what He would lose (Hebrews 12:2: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God). Christ looked less at the loss and its cost to Him and more at the greatness of the gain for the triune God, Himself, and believers! : Therefore, He completed His Father’s work as He focused on His future exaltation and the benefit He was bringing to believers (John 17:1-5, 20-24). His gain was so awesomely wonderful that He considered His great loss and humiliation insignificant by comparison. He practiced perfect trust in a perfect God. You too are to learn to trust.
Because you are Christ’s, His victory is your victory. His loss and its cost defy human understanding. You may feel alone, adrift in a sea of confusion and chaos, and even feel overwhelmed, but your feelings are not match for truth: Jesus is your anchor (Hebrews 6:18-20). Perhaps your personal loss makes no sense to you now. It doesn’t have to. God has already “made sense” of gain through loss at the cross.
Focus on Christ’s gain and its benefit for you now and eternally, and you will be able to use your loss to grow in Christlikeness. Remember that God’s design for all believers is to have them become more like His Son. Pleasing God by using what you don’t like to stimulate you to grow in Christlikeness is testimony of grace and is the only way to live a satisfied and contented life.
Truth #3 to gain a Biblical Understanding of Grief: the Christian Oyster
God expresses His wisdom and comfort via a metaphor. The process of growth in Christ is likened to the believer functioning as a “Christian oyster.” Oysters use an irritant to produce a pearl. So does a Christian. The irritant he uses can be any sort of trouble, and the pearl that results is Christlikeness. Fulfilling God’s design is something that every believer has the capacity and grace to do no matter what his feelings, his reasoning, or his circumstances may be. When you grieve God’s way, God is praised and you can be joyfully satisfied right now knowing that in this life you have a taste of the victory that Christ gained at the cross.
As Christ’s loss pointed to the greater gain, so, too, your present loss points you to another gain – a glimpse of heaven (1 John 3:1-3). As bad as it hurts now, your greater gain is not only what you are in Christ and what you are becoming in Him but also living forever in heaven. None of these gains can corrupt, fade, or spoil (1 Peter 1:3-8). Viewed in this way, you will be able to use your situation to develop an eternal perspective on life.
This perspective of change and loss will help you derive indescribable comfort and strength as it did Jesus. The saints of old in Hebrews 11 knew life was not about them but about God. They looked forward to God’s ultimate blessing – being in His presence. (Hebrews 11:39-40). Therefore, when they circumstances are rightly viewed and used, they become stepping stones for developing Christlikeness which prepares them for heaven. Truly, they functioned as “Christian oysters” and are now joyously reaping the blessings. They experienced God’s peace that far exceeds human understanding (Philippians 4:7). You too, are able to experience that peace in the midst of loss.
Your anguish should also heighten your awareness of the Father’s cost and Christ’s suffering on the cross (Romans 8:32; Isaiah 63:9). It should rivet your attention to Christ’s suffering on your behalf. This should be produce a humbling soberness and a sobering humility. In that way, you are imitating Christ. The victory comes in the doing (thinking and wanting as well: John 13:17; James 1:25). If you were the only sinner and had committed only one sin, the cross would still be necessary for you to be saved, to grow, and to have victory in the midst of difficulties. Your personal loss should intensify your appreciation of Christ’s loss.
Truth #4 to Gain a Biblical Understanding of Grief: Jesus, the Model for Grieving
The fourth specific and hope-engendering truth regarding God’s wisdom and comfort that you can apply now is this: Jesus is your model for grieving. Consider the manner in which He grieved. Because you are in Christ and He grieved in a God-honoring manner, so can you. The Bible provides several examples of Jesus’ grieving and His teaching about grief. Consider the following Scripture passages:
John 11:33, 35, 38: Grieving over Lazarus
v.33: When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
v.35: Jesus wept.
v.38: Jesus, once more deeply moved came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
Matthew 26:38 and Mark 14:38: Grieving in the Garden
Matthew 26:38: Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Mark 14:34: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. Stay here and keep watch.”
Luke 19:41; 23:28: Jesus is grieving over Jerusalem and the people:
Luke 19:41: As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.
Luke 23:28: Jesus turned to them and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for our children.
Jesus’ sinless example gives important take-home messages about grief for you today. These include:
- Grief is appropriate and proper. There is a place for grief in our fallen world. Consider Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: Brothers we don’t want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Therefore encourage each other with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Sin and its consequences bring havoc in this life with hopelessness, darkness, misery, and death. Loss is part of living in a fallen world. As a result, you hurt when you lose a loved one. It is appropriate and proper to grieve in response to your loss. But how should you grieve? What should be your focus as you grieve?
Jesus’ victory at the cross didn’t eradicate misery and death, but it gave believers a new perspective on loss. The cross teaches that God brings victory and triumph out of hurts and trouble. Paul was aware of this truth when he urged the Thessalonians to grieve in God-honoring manner. He knew that biblical hope would modify their thoughts and desires and thus their feelings. Their manner and motivation of grieving would then be God-honoring – with godly, true hope. His words were to comfort and to encourage them as he directed them to think about the return of the resurrected Christ (4:14-16). Otherwise, their grief would be hopeless and self-focused.
To grieve hopefully and properly, you must “educate” yourself about grief and your loss. You might be thinking: “how do I do that? I thought grief just was; that it just happens. How do you educate an emotion?” All those are good questions and deserve God’s answers.
Remember that Jesus is your model for grief. He was fully man and He interacted with hurting people as well as the triune God. It is in the context of His relationships with God and others that He grieved. He knew what life was all about – pleasing His Father and completing His work (John 4:31-34). His grief was always tempered by His understanding of the ultimate cause of grief – sin and His redemptive purpose. He focused on the cross as God’s only solution for mankind plight.
Jesus’ cross-centered focus for and in life (in contrast to a self-focus!) influenced all He thought, desired, and did. A key for you to grieve God’s way is to think land desire like Jesus; you can because you have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)! Since grieving is relational, personal, and intimate, it must always be guided by your relationship with God in Christ and the cost to the triune God in forming that relationship.
- You must learn to control grief – actually yourself – in response to loss. You need to be able to control its initiation and expression in accordance with the situation. Otherwise your grieving will become complicated by hopelessness, bitterness, fear, loneliness, self-doubt, self accusations, anger, despair, and resentment.
In the examples given above, Jesus was in the midst of life-changing events. Pressure was all around. And yet Jesus was in full control of His thoughts and desires. He was much less concerned with feelings. .He knew those were linked to thoughts and desires. He had a true understanding about God, Himself, loss, and gain. Therefore, His grief was not complicated. He was not out of control and His grief was suited to every occasion. Why? He always maintained a proper vertical reference to life. His focus was on God and what He was doing in the situation. Therefore, Jesus rightly interpreted loss.
Among other important truths, His life and work on the cross emphatically teach that loss is ultimately for your eternal good, the benefits of which begins now in this life. In your loss you will discover more clearly how fundamental and precious your relationship with Christ is. Your focus will be away from self and toward God. As a result, you will grieve with hope. Your grief will be uncomplicated, hopeful, proper, and appropriate.
To emphasize: loss in this life is always to be measured by its benefits and gains – growth in Christ and heaven at the expense of Christ. The believer’s hope, comfort, and peace rest on Christ’s work on the cross and God’s grace which enables him to view and respond to life as a Christian oyster. Paul captures the essence of God’s wisdom in Romans 8:28-29:
v.28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who are called according to his purpose.
v.29: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Your understanding of what your loss is to produce in you is a reflection of your understanding of what Jesus gained by His life, death, and resurrection. How you respond to loss should approximate Jesus’ model of handling loss. The tendency of many people is to make wrong comparisons. They measure their loss over against what they don’t have rather than what they do have in Christ. The more value a person places on what was lost, the greater the grief. Gently I say to you: this is a fruitless endeavor. Rather look up, focus on the cross and on your relationship to Christ.
To help you respond to loss in a God-pleasing manner, you need a standard other than your experiences and feelings. Jesus is that standard because He is your sinless, faithful High Priest Who fully experienced the human condition (Hebrews 4:15). Further, you need a biblical understanding of change and loss. Jesus knew the potential for, and actually experienced, great gain through change and loss. Therefore, meditate on the cross, its cost, and the great gain it brings. What infinite loss and what infinite gain for Christ and what gain for believers! I say to you believer: go to the cross. Your loss, rightly responded to, will produce great gain. Christ’s death on the cross and the resurrection prove that fact.
In spite of knowing these truths, you may have a hard time focusing on the gain. But thinking about loss as Christ did should help you put your loss in perspective and help you grieve God’s way. Consider your loss in light of the Father’s cost and the Son’s loss. Weigh your sins against your present loss and see which weighs heavier. No matter how great your present loss, it is not as heavy as your sins and the cost to Christ Who became your Sin-Bearer (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and 5:21: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God).
If you don’t look to Christ’s greater loss, which led to His gain, you will focus on your experience rather than your salvation, its cost to Christ, and your relationship with Him. Focusing on your loss will keep you from focusing on Christ’s gain through His suffering. As a result, you will miss the gain God has for you.
- Your grief must always be hopefully purposeful (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Responding to God’s providential workings in your life is a whole-person activity: thoughts, desires, and actions. Therefore, grieving is a whole-person activity. You don’t live in a vacuum and you never grieve in the abstract. Grief is always in the context of change. Loss hurts but change in your life is never outside of God’s good control. His purpose is for you to grow in Christlikeness which is the only way for you to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9). Therefore, grieve as Christ did because you are a believer and He is your model. Loss properly responded to should move you to ask: What is God up to? Your task is to discover His purposes so far as you can.
In His grief, Jesus was moved to action – to His knees in submission to His Father (while in the Garden) and to compassion for other hurting people (while on the way to Calvary and on the cross). We have learned that Jesus responded to difficult times by grieving God’s way because of His perspective on life, on Himself, and on His Father.
Jesus had an upward and outward gaze in whatever He did, including loss. Jesus lived out of His relationship with His Father. He knew that He was not alone (John 8:16,29;16:32). His goal in life was to please His Father (John 4:31-34; 17:1-5). Jesus grieved purposefully, appropriately, and compassionately, and God honored it. Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and session in heaven are unmistakable proof of that fact.
God’s Wisdom, Comfort, and Good Grief: Conclusion and Application
How are you to apply these biblical truths regarding God’s wisdom and comfort for troubled times to your present situation? Consider these ways to help you rethink and reprogram your life without your loved one.
- List the losses – both actual and potential – as a result of your situation.
- List the gains – both actual and potential – for you as you answer what a good God desires to come from this.
- Compare your loss and your gains, no matter how large or small, to Christ’s loss and gains. What is your assessment?
- Write out what it means to “grieve God’s way.”
- Consider these results of grieving God’s way and write out an assessment of yourself.
- Define a greater trust and dependence on God and His provisions which include His Spirit, His Word, and the help of fellow believers who serve Him by serving you. How should you change?
- A greater appreciation of your relationship with Christ affects how you think, desire, and act. What changes do you need to make?
- A more acute and proper awareness of the frailty of this life and a keener expectation of heaven: what is the result?
- An expectation of comforting others with the same comfort that you have received (2 Corinthians 1:3-4): who can you minister?
In the midst of loss and grief, true help comes from the triune God: God’s wisdom and comfort. Often, it is in dark times that a person is profoundly confronted with the reality of the ever-present God. Sometimes, He sends trouble to His servants so that they will seek and find Him. What a blessing to know that God doesn’t leave His people and that His love is wide and long and deep and high! It encircles and strengthens you in every circumstance (Ephesians 3:14-21). It is for His glory and to your advantage, therefore, to grieve His way. May God bless you as you do.
 For a detailed study of Grieving God’s way, see my book: Joy in Grief: God’s Answer For Hard Times