Godly Grief and the Joy of the Lord
Editor’s Note: At the time of writing this article, Kelsey’s mother, Kelly, was in the final weeks of her battle with cancer. Last evening, September 10th, her mother passed away and entered into presence of the Christ. We hope you will join us in praying for Kelsey and her family. And, as you read Kelsey’s words, we hope you will hear the triumph of her unfading hope.
Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Such a simple action, yet from it, death, disease, and sin were born. Since that time, the whole earth has been groaning—there has been no true rest. Today we remember the death of almost 3,000 people to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Seventeen years later, we are still mourning those losses as a nation.
And, for myself, this time finds me grieving over the imminent passing of my mother due to cancer.
Scripture tells us to “count it all joy” when we face trials of various kinds (James 1:2). As believers, we are used to living in seemingly paradoxical ways: we must lose our lives to gain them; we must live in the world but not be of the world. But this command – to be joyful in tribulation – is hard to fathom. It hurts. It can even feel insulting! Are we supposed to slap on a smile and respond “great!” when asked how we are doing? Even more, are we somehow in sin when we find ourselves grieving?
By no means. Was our Lord not given the description, “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief?” (Isa. 53:3). Did He Himself not weep over the death of Lazarus, the one whom He loved? Scripture is drenched with the tears of the saints.
But in his first letter to the church of Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul draws a strict distinction between the grief of believers and that of the world: We are not to grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13).
Paul authored 1 Thessalonians as a letter of encouragement as well as correction to the Christians in this newly established church. The believers were dealing with great persecution as well as an “uninformed” understanding of Christ’s return and the death of saints. As a way of reassurance in these trials, Paul contrasts their future hope with that of the world: “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thess. 5:8-10). For those of us who have trusted in Jesus, these words are the reason behind the everlasting hope that accompanies our trials and times of grief.
Our confidence is based not on our circumstances, but on our faith and love for God and our hope of salvation. Meditate with me on these truths, and next time you face a trial, let them create a wellspring of joy and hope in you:
- We have faith in God’s character: Our circumstances, our bodies, and the world around us change, but God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and His Word never fails. Take some time today to read through Psalm 103 and remember the unchanging character of the God we serve.
- We have faith in God’s promises: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num. 23:19).
- We rest in God’s love for us: Picture this—God Himself, the great I Am, loves you. He died for you as a propitiation for your sin! “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).
- We rest in our love for God: Out of our distress we can cry, “Abba, Father”, and the Lord of the Universe hears our prayers. Christ is our Bridegroom, our Brother, and our Friend—the closest one to our hearts. Rest in your relationship with Him. Daily, spend time in His Word and in prayer, and taste and see that He is good.
- We have hope of the salvation of our souls: First Peter 1:3-9 reminds us of the great salvation that we have been given and that our trials are allowed by God to test our faith through fire, assuring us of its authenticity. We can also be confident of the permanence of our salvation through passages like Romans 8:31-39.
- We have hope of our future salvation: What we have now is not all we have been promised—there is so much more. Our hope rests on the promises our God made of coming again, establishing His kingdom, and destroying death, disease, and sin once and for all. Read Revelation 21 and 22 and let yourself feel the excitement of this imminent reality!
My mom is leaving this world soon. As I watch her suffer and as I ponder the losses I will endure without her here for me or my future children, my heart grieves…yet not without hope! Our hope is built on the solid ground of the unshakable promises and work of our Lord. Through it, though storms come and mountains fall into the heart of the sea, we are granted joy unspeakable and peace that surpasses understanding. So today, meditate. Ruminate on these truths that are yours in Christ Jesus, and let the joy of the Lord be your strength.
Kelsey received her bachelor’s in family and consumer sciences (FCS) with a concentration in nutrition and a minor in Bible from the Master’s University in California. She is completing a master’s in Christian education with a concentration in FCS from Southwestern Seminary in Texas. She is absolutely passionate about the Lord, God’s institution of marriage and the family, and nutrition. Kelsey loves being a wife to her husband of three years and best friend, Jacob, and creating tasty and (usually) nutritious meals. She is the administrative assistant to Scarborough College at Southwestern Seminary, has helped establish the Scarborough College ladies’ student organization, LIFT, and contributes monthly to the blog The Everyday Homemaker.