We have had two losses among our Christian friends and acquaintances recently. One was a teenage boy who drowned while canoeing, leaving his recently widowed mother and six siblings. Another was a thirty-four year-old mother of two young children who died after a long battle with cancer. Losses like these leave us saddened, stunned, and sometimes even angry. As Christians, though, we can face death and suffering without despair, for our hope is in Jesus Christ, the Giver of Life, the Conqueror of Death.
Yet it seems that Christians sometimes think that if we outwardly show the sorrows we feel, we are somehow demonstrating a lack of faith. In order to honor God, we reason, we must accept His frowning providences without even a flinch, like an abused boy accepts his whippings. This stoicism can become a mere exercise of will, so that what appears to be piety and faith is actually a work of prideful flesh.
God loves life and hates death. He is sovereign over death, and He ordains it, yet He made the ultimate sacrifice--Himself--to secure its ultimate destruction. If we love Him, we should love what He loves and hate what He hates. When we love life, we mourn the loss of it. When we hate death, we are angered by its destructive force.
Grieving like a Christian does not mean we do not grieve. It means we grieve without despair. We crawl into our Father's lap and lay our tear-stained cheeks on His shoulder, and trust that what He ordains is always right, will always work out well in the end, and that all our losses will one day be restored to us. It is running to Him and asking, "Tell me again the story of what You have done and what You will do to destroy this enemy." It is going to Him and asking for the strength and comfort we need to face the new reality of our temporary, mortal lives--a reality without someone we have grown to love, without someone we are used to having as a part of our lives and perhaps mistakenly assumed would always be there. It is knowing that although there is loss, all is not lost.
God does not tell us we will not have sorrows. He tells us that He will be our comfort in sorrow. He does not tell us we will not have tears. He tells us He will be there with us to wipe our tears away. He does not tell us there will not be times to mourn. He tells us that on the other side of that mourning is the promise of joy indescribable.