Keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.
A cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow.
However, grief isn’t just a collection of words that fit neatly into crystal jar for us to display in our living rooms, an object to remind us that we’ve survived the hardest times in our lives. Grief is not a fleeting feeling but a whole-body experience. It’s an ache so powerful it feels like it might rip your heart apart, it’s the twisting up of your stomach, it’s a storm in your mind pressing every memory and emotion against the sides of your brain. Everyone experiences grief differently; some people welcome it into their lives and set a place for it at the dinner table while others shut it out and soundproof their lives so they can’t hear it banging on the walls. But one way or another, we have all encountered grief and her bouquets of flowers.
Grief doesn’t just relate to the physical loss of a loved one. It could be the ending of a job, a friend moving away, or any type of forced change. I have had loved ones die, places close to my heart shut down, and dear friends go back home to another country. I have experienced accidents that flipped my world on its head, seen people turn back to self-destructive ways of life, and dealt with the sudden and unexpected loss of a person’s life. Through each of these, I experienced varying degrees of anger, sadness, and wondering why it happened. No matter how big or small the loss is perceived to be by people on the outside, it as a full-body experience when you are the one who has had something or someone taken from you.
Right now, it feels like we’re all in mourning. We’re lamenting the loss of a way of life and all that was comfortable and certain. And there’s no funeral home or grave marker that can help us sort through these feelings or give us a physical symbol of what we’ve lost. It can be hard to put into words what we’re grieving because there are so many things that have ceased to be present in our lives. We feel the isolating effects of grief even more strongly because we are forced to be separate from our support systems. We are no longer able to talk about things over a cup of coffee with our friends, or visit our parents, or gather with our church families, and this death of a way of life can feel like the worst loss of all. Amid the denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, there is a beautiful truth being woven into the fabric of our lives.
The darkness and isolation of grief have a way of revealing the hidden things in our hearts that we would rather not deal with, yet it is those very places that God wants to bring healing, restoration, and freedom. It is through these painful times that God shows us his love and joy in a profoundly tangible way because he is all that we have left to cling to. Our idols and unhealthy attachments are stripped away, and all that is left is the Lover and Perfector of our souls; the One that we should have been focusing on all along. When I feel depressed or heartbroken all I want to do is hide away from the world, and in this current moment a lot of us may feel hidden from the world and isolated from the ones we love. Friends, I encourage you to remove yourself from the blanket cocoon you’ve been hiding away in for the past days and run into the open and waiting arms of the Lord. You can never quarantine yourself from the love of God, and He has plans to grow and mature you through this season so that there will be workers for the harvest.
It’s essential to work through our emotions in the light of God’s truth and what He has said in His Word so that we don’t make grief (or any other emotion) the new ruler of our hearts. We can stand face to face with pain and acknowledge it while not letting it reign in our lives. We can sit down with it for a while, but we shouldn’t be making it a permanent place for it in our hearts and minds. This time in our lives and the history of our world may seem uncertain and full of debilitating losses, but as Corrie ten Boom said, we should never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. Take heart friends for joy comes in the morning.