Grief from God’s Perspective: Grieving God’s way

Introduction: this series: Grief from God’s Perspective: Grieving God’s Way  addresses the biblical truths that help the believer to grieve God’s way – godly grieving. Every believer needs God’s wisdom especially in troubled times including loss. Your loss may weigh heavy on you. There are competing voices vying for your attention. What is a believer to do? Is their hope and victory? Where do you go to find out? If there is victory, what will it look like?

The believer finds satisfying answers only in the Bible. One of God’s answers is to grieve in a God-honoring manner (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The only way to grieve God’s way is to develop a proper theology of change and loss. Grief from God’s perspective: godly grieving results from a proper theology of change and loss and vice versa.

Developing a Proper Theology of Change through Loss

I: Grief from the culture’s and Grief from God’s perspective: grieving God’s way

A. The importance of definition: noun and verb: What is grief?
1. Webster: hardship; intense emotional suffering caused by loss/disaster/misfortune
2. Etymology: old French greve meaning a heavy burden. In the English language, grieve/grief generally means an experience of deep sorrow or heavy burden.
3. Practically and culturally: it is a feeling, an experience of deep sorrow based on a mindset with a personal meaning. Foremost, it is a feeling but with varying hues and colors.

B. Biblically:
1. The words: lupe, lupeo, and perilupeo-perilupos are the most commonly used words in the New Testament translated as grief and grieve.
2. Grief is the expression of feelings – anguish, sadness, sorrow – but in response to God’s providence (often termed life) in the context of change and loss.
3. The response is connected to thoughts and desires about God, the person or thing lost, self, and God’s providence.
C. Rightly understood, grief is a whole-person response (inner and outer man) associated with thoughts, desires, and actions or inactions usually expressed as feelings.

1. The loss is most often a person or animal but can be a change in any circumstance.
2. It is a whole-person response that includes desires, thoughts, and actions in both the inner and outer man.
3. Its expression is impacted by the degree of the significance attached to the loss.
4. It is something a person experiences and does. Many would say it is something that a person feels.
5. The response is two-fold: to the loss AND to the feelings themselves.
6. It is often patterned.

II. The Importance of studying Grief from God’s perspective: grieving Gods way

A. It is painfully obvious that change and loss are common in a fallen world.
B. Since no one is immune to loss, the key issue is one’s response to the loss.
C. Will the response be God-pleasing or self-pleasing? Will you grieve God’s way or the way of the unbeliever?

III. The culture offers many explanations for grief and ways to grieve.

A. Since grief and bad feelings are the problem, handling them, healing the person and the feelings, and coping is the culture’s mainstay for help.
B. The problem originates on the outside and causes you to feel and act a certain way.
C. How did culture arrive at its answers? It is by:

1. Experience: people’s reactions were observed in their situation.
2. Observations led to labels which described the person’s reaction to loss.
3. Theories have been postulated followed by a proliferation of ideas and approaches for responding to loss.
4. God’s role in the loss and God’s grace and biblical wisdom in the response are minimized, reframed, or excluded.
5. Underlying these factors is the presumed role of science and the limited role of biblical truth.

D. The culture’s foundation for its answers are:

1. Psychology and experience;
2. An inordinate emphasis on the personal and feeling aspect;
3. A dose of “spirituality” however defined.
E. The Christian’s choice:

1. If culture is correct, Christians must get in step with its teachings; unfortunately, some churches and individual believers have.
2. If culture is incorrect, Christians must seek God’s answers in His Word.

IV. A biblical assessment of Grief from God’s perspective: an orderly response to the culture’s answers

A. Where is the hope in the culture’s approach to loss and grief?
1. There is none.
2. The focus is on better feelings.
3. Practically, terms such as process, coping, enduring, getting by, doing the best I can and hoping for the best emerge and take center stage.

B. An essential question: Is God silent on the subject of loss and grief?

1. Certainly not. In fact, God calls Christians to develop and practice a proper theology to change and loss.
2. Loss is part of God’s providence – His plan and control. This may be a theological mountain for some. Ps. 31:15
3. Grief/grieving is a response to God and His providence.
4. Loss brings a person face to face with the living God and your view of Him.

C. Secular theories were developed without distinguishing between believer and non- believer and without using biblical truth.
D. The following is a critique of the major characteristics of the culture’s answers for loss:

1. Grief is considered solely from the individual’s viewpoint – self takes center stage.
a. Grief is personified as a driving force in one’s life – often chronically.
b. Grieving is considered a process and the griever is labeled and treated as a victim.
c. Grief work focuses the person on his journey, the process of coping, and handling grief by whatever means.
d. Culture answers with a resounding no to the question: is there anything to gain from loss? Rather, loss just is; it just happens; it is a way of life. But they assert that they can help you.
e. If God is mentioned, it is God only as a consoler and One who gets-me-through-it.

2. The origin of grief is misrepresented and there is a failure to:
a. Acknowledge that loss is the result of the curse of sin and God’s judgment: Gen. 3:15-18; Rom. 5:12-14;
b. Recognize that this is God’s world and He providentially brings His plan to pass for His glory and the believer’s good now and eternally: Rom. 8:28-29; Ps. 24:1-2;
c. Acknowledge the sufficiency and superiority of biblical truth for all problems you will face including loss and change;
d. Emphasize one’s relationship to God in Christ and His cross work as fundamental for grieving God’s way through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit;
e. Honor God.

3. There is an ordinate emphasis on feelings and the emotional aspect of the person without a proper biblical reference.
a. A grieving person is often described as being overwhelmed, numb to the reality of the situation, and out of control emotionally. This is considered a given no matter the person.
b. The aspects of the whole person – both the inner and outer man – thoughts, desires (affections), and actions (willful activity) are ignored. The person is encouraged to emote but a proper way of emoting is never addressed.
c. The goal is to eliminate bad feelings and accentuate good ones. Changed thinking is part of the process without a reference to 1 Cor. 2:16 and 2 Cor. 10:5.

4. Grief is considered a personal process, journey, and an experience with many stages.
a. The emphasis my grief is intensely and uniquely personal. Understanding me and my condition is critical but since no one can understand, I need time to cope.
b. Grief is something that one does/goes through by getting in touch with his feelings as he accepts and copes. The terms getting in touch, accept, and cope are not defined.
c. Recently, the emphasis in grief counseling has switched from achieving closure and saying good bye to maintaining a sense of connectedness with the departed one.

5. Its duration is considered to be life-long, but it must be dealt with early.
a. Therapeutic pragmatism is the rule and it is directed toward relieving bad feelings.
b. Often the motto is: Once a victim always a victim.

V. Six reasons why it is important to develop from Scripture a correct theology of change through loss and thus understand grief from God’s perspective in order to grieve God’s way

A. Life is theological and everyone is a theologian: everyone lives in or out of a proper relationship to God.
B. One’s response to change and loss will either be as a:

1. Good theologian functioning as a God-pleaser by relying and applying biblical truth.
2. Bad theologian functioning as a self-pleaser by relying on the culture’s false “wisdom.”

C. Man is a whole person, a duplex unit, both inner and outer man.

1. Everyone lives out of his heart/inner man: Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 12:33-37; 15:8, 18-20; Mark 7:20-23; Luke 6:43-45.
2. Inner-man activities include:

a. Thinking (functional belief system);
b. Motivation: affections/desires/wants/allegiance (functional motivational system).
c. Actions (the will).

3. Outer man (brain as part of the body and the body) activities include: thoughts, desires, and actions
4. Inner-man activities affect the outer man and vice versa.
5. One’s response to change and loss is a reflection of that which controls him as a whole person.

D. Everyone lives out of an identity, sets an agenda (plan), and pursues that plan in order to accomplish a purpose.

1. A believer’s relationship with Christ should influence him to respond to change as a good theologian.
2. To the degree that his relationship with Christ influences him is the degree to which he will aggressively apply biblical principles in any situation including loss. As he does, the greater his victory will be.
3. The key is one’s definition of victory which is defined in VIII. D.

E. Grief is the result of Adam’s sin due to man’s fundamental loss: a right relationship with God.

1. Radical change in the form of misery, pain, and sorrow are givens in a fallen world.
2. Good theologians acknowledge these facts which help him to respond to change and loss in a manner that glorifies God and benefits him and others.

F. God’s truth and Satan’s lies compete.

1. When the two are mixed, truth is always diluted and perverted; yet, it seems so easy to accept culture’s counterfeit “wisdom.”
2. God doesn’t bless His competition (Isaiah 42:8; 48:9-11).

G. The believer is the most changed person and therefore he is to be the most changing person. God has an agenda for every one of His children. It is to become more like Christ.

1. He is the only one qualified to understand God’s purpose in trouble including loss.
2. He is the only one qualified to respond to trouble in a God-honoring way.

VI. Grief from God’s perspective leads to Grieving God’s Way. Godly grieving is the supremely sufficient and superior answer for grieving God’s way and is found only in the Bible.

A. Grieving God’s way is counter-cultural and counterintuitive.
B. The assumption is that you agree that grieving God’s way:

1. Is God’s way;
2. Honors God;
3. Is best for the one who have lost someone and those around him;
4. Is possible and powerful.

C. Scripture uses a variety of words that can be translated as grief, mourning, and sadness.

1. Our good God knows the subject well and gives full attention to the matter of loss.
2. Understanding the words in their context enables the believer to view loss from God’s perspective and to grieve in a God-honoring way.

D. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:13, grieving will be either God-honoring or God-dishonoring. Also see John 16:20-22.

1. The situation itself is neutral.
2. The person’s response is predicated on his view of God, self, and others.

E. There are at least five features of grief and grieving that must be considered:

1. Its motivation;
2. Its initiation;
3. Its content;
4. Its expression;
5. Its duration.

E. These five features:

1. Are influenced by the person’s view of self, the loss, and the God of the loss.
2. Determine whether grief will be complicated (ungodly) or uncomplicated (godly).
3. Focus on the demand for a blessing now or for the hope of blessing eternally that begins now.
4. Resurrection life begins now because the believer is united to Christ. Believers live resurrection life now (Rom. 6:9-11).

F. Jesus and the cross provide important biblical principles for helping you to develop a proper theology of change in loss and to grieve in a God-honoring manner.

1. Jesus is the model for the believer who has lost someone or something.
2. Jesus demonstrated that loss is to be used to honor God.
3. The cross shows how gain comes from loss for the Triune God and for believer.

a. The risen, exalted Christ secured the Father’s glory and God’s people which were gifted to Him in eternity past (John 6:37-43; 17:1-5).
b. The risen, exalted Christ gained for Himself His rightful place as the glorified, risen Lord and for His Church, His bride (Eph. 1:19-22; Heb. 12:1-3)
c. When the believer was saved, he gained the following: the privilege of growth; the joy and beauty of being a child of God; a different perspective of self, God, and others; a taste of heaven on this earth; and ultimately heaven.

4. The cross teaches, among other things, that loss rightly responded to glorifies God and brings great benefit for the church and the believer – now and eternally.
5. In contradistinction, loss wrongly responded to dishonors God and brings discouragement and discontentment to all believers involved.

VII. Jesus – the Person and His mindset as understood Grief from God’s perspective: godly grieving

A. Jesus was intimately aware of His vital relationship with the Father.

1. He was not alone: John 8:16, 29; 16:32.
2. His focus was on pleasing God; it controlled His life 24/7: John 4:31-34.
3. Control was not the issue. Jesus was satisfied that God was in control.
4. Therefore, He was able to grieve properly uncomplicated by self-pity, doubts, bitterness, or resentment.

B. Jesus answered the question: how can anyone who has experienced loss say he is not alone?

1. Jesus’ answer was a relationship with His Father.
2. He taught that relationships matter especially in hard times.
3. Focusing on and investing in His relationship with God simplified Christ’s life. The same is true for all believers no matter the circumstances. .
4. Jesus developed a patterned lifestyle of regular focusing on pleasing God and enjoying Him irrespective of the situation. His habit was enjoying God.
5. During darker times, Jesus relished and relied on His relationship with the Father though His disciples failed Him (Matthew 26:31, 56; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46).
6. His complete reliance on His Father was demonstrated as He hung on the cross in darkness: Matthew 27:45-46: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Jesus knew the answer such that He said:
a. .…It is finished … and …gave up his spirit (John 19:30);
b. ...Into your hands I commit my spirit … (Luke 23:46);
c. ….He gave up his spirit (Matthew 27:50).

VIII. Biblical examples of Jesus as He understood Grief from God’s perspective: Godly Grieving

A. Passages: Matthew 26:37-44; Mark 14:33-38; John 11:33-38; Luke 13:34-35; 19:41-44; 23:28-31
B. Teaching points re: grief and grieving:

1. Grief/grieving is appropriate, proper, and express one’s inner person.
2. Proper grieving originates from an understanding of God:

a. His love in bringing a people to Himself via the active and passive obedience of Christ.
b. God’s wrath and the cost of removing it (see Luke 13:1-5; John 11).

3. Its motivation, its initiation, its content, its expression, and its duration must be in accordance with biblical principles.
4. Jesus focused on pleasing His Father by accomplishing His will.
5. Jesus grieved purposefully moving Him to action to honor His Father by saving His people.

a. Jesus was not a martyr or victim.
b. He was in full control of His thoughts and desires. He was not emotionally overwhelmed or out of control.
c. Jesus was with sin, misery, and sorrow but he was sinless: 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15.
d. As such, Jesus looked to the joy of the cross: resurrection life at the expense of His greater loss which was His humiliation (Heb. 12:1-3).
e. Jesus correctly interpreted loss because of His proper vertical orientation. Therefore He faced loss with hope.
f. Jesus focused on the eternal. He focused on the gain and the God of the circumstance. He considered the God of the circumstance and not simply the circumstance.
g. Jesus used the circumstance as spectacles to see the God of the circumstance and what He was doing.
h. Loss is ultimately intended to be beneficial for the believer because:

1) It points away from self, to God’s relationship with him, and to heaven.
2) There will a greater dependence on God: trust and obey.
i. Ultimately and preeminently Jesus’ focus was not on His loss but on what God was providing for Him and His people in that loss (Hebrews 12:1-3).

6. Jesus’ manner of grieving was uncomplicated: no self-pity, bitterness, or self-doubt.
a. He was angry over the effects of sin, the misery of people, the cost to Him, and the profaning of the name of the Triune God.
b. He reminded the women to weep for themselves which means:

1) Acknowledging the curse of sin and its consequences: Romans 5:12-14;
2) Repenting when appropriate: James 5:14-16;
3) Counting the divine cost of reversing the curse: 2 Corinthians 5:21;
4) Counting who believers are in Christ: Ephesians 1:3-14;
5) Acting on the truth that no child of God is alone: John 10:28-30;
6) Focusing on the goodness of God in Christ as the Savior and exalted King.

IX. Summary: the principle of gain through loss is specifically related to the cross and Christ’s active and passive obedience. It explains Grief from God’s Perspective: Grieving God’s Way.

A. Grieving God’s way honors God and is best for the believer and the Church.

1. It increases thanksgiving and confidence in God for Who He is, what He has done, and what He will do.
2. You rest in God through Christ by the Holy Spirit so that you enjoy His presence now as a foretaste of eternity. Eternity begins with now for the believer.

B. Christ gave full attention to what He would gain rather than on His loss:

1. Christ’s humiliation: His loss was exceedingly and surpassingly great. So, too, may be the believer’s as he imitates Christ’s response to and in his loss.
2. Christ’s exaltation: The gain was surpassingly wonderful and far outweighed His loss. Rightly responded to, your gain will be great, now and eternally (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 3:7-11; John 17:1-5, 24-26; Heb. 12:1-3).
3. Jesus rightly responded to loss which produced the perfect gain.
4. Throughout His life on earth, Jesus practiced the ultimate trust. His ultimate loss, although great, directed Him toward God. Therefore, He grieved God’s way at the cross, in part, because He grieved God’s way throughout His life.
5. Resurrection life starts here and now for the believer. He has a piece of heaven now.

C. What sustained Jesus? It was His understanding of what loss, properly responded to, was producing for Him, for His Father, and for His people.

1. He was rightly God-focused and other-focused: in eternity, before the cross, and at the cross.
2. He was filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit.

D. Paul knew one of the lessons of the cross – the power of gain through loss: Philippians 3:3-11. Therefore believers are to imitate Christ and Paul.
E. Living out one’s relationship in Christ means growing and changing by:

1. Using hard times to please God (the Christian oyster);
2. Being satisfied in the situation because of your relationship in Christ;
3. Being controlled by God’s truth rather than the agony of the situation.

F. In contrast to Jesus and Paul, people often count the cost from a now perspective and in terms of their individual loss rather than their gain.

X. Homework: Grief from God’s Perspective

A. In order for you to understand grief from God’s perspective: grieve God’s way, rethink your life without ______ God’s way.
B. List the losses – both actual and potential – as a result of your situation.
C. List the gains – both actual and potential – for you as you answer what a good God desires to come from this.
D. Compare your loss and your gains, no matter how large or small, to Christ’s loss and gains. What is your assessment?
E. Write out what it means to understand grief from God’s perspective and to grieve God’s way and consider these results of grieving God’s way:

1. A greater trust and dependence on God and His provisions which include His Spirit, His Word, and fellow believers who serve Him by serving you.
2. A greater appreciation of your relationship with Christ – its cost, its greatness, its benefits – which affects how you think, desire, and act.
3. A more acute and proper awareness of the frailty of this life and a keener expectation of heaven.
4. An expectation of comforting others with the same comfort that you have received (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

F. Write out an assessment of yourself using the above as a guideline for you to grieve God’s way. Blessings as you do.