Silence accompanies Grief, as does Loneliness. These unwanted tenants take up residence in all our lives for a time. And each us will long for companions to come and sit with us while these unwanted guests are present. All of us may not be in seasons of deep grief, but we all know someone who is. The Christian life demands that we respond to others who grieve, but not in the way it has become so common.
For various reasons, I have experienced grief in my life that never truly leaves. I have come to realize that the pangs of grief may subside, but the cause of my grief will never go away. I will always be grieving, to some extent. And I’m not alone. For this reason, brothers and sisters in Christ must hold up one another’s arms, walk alongside and shoulder one another’s burdens as we grieve — for we all will grieve, and we all will desire someone to help us grieve.
I’m grateful to have such brothers and sisters in my life. Sometimes we sat in silence; other times we talked. Sometimes we wept together; other times we laughed. But what I have treasured most about the ways others have entered into grief with me is their resolve to grieve with me, to feel what I feel in a small way, to be burdened by the destructive effects sin has in our world with me, to carry out the call to “weep with those who weep.” It is a blessing to have brothers and sisters so willing to follow this command, but it can be terribly burdensome when brothers and sisters do not.
Are you willing to “weep with those who weep” — to be there when someone is experiencing grief? Here are four practical steps to carry out this important call:
When Christ ascended into heaven, He promised another One would come — the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). The promise of the Holy Spirit dramatically changed our relationship with God. The Spirit now dwells in us. He takes up residence in our lives, and He never leaves us. God is a good Father who knows the needs of His children. We need His presence continually.
In seasons of intense grief, we also need the presence of our brothers and sisters. We can learn from our Father’s good gift of the Holy Spirit and see that He has also given us the good gift of fellowship. This fellowship is essential in the midst of grief. So, be present with your brothers and sisters. Mere presence is comforting.
Grief is not a sign of a lack of faith, but the effort to run from or avoid grief can be.
Remind yourself to send messages, call or visit your brother or sister regularly. Don’t be a band-waggoner! Remember, pangs will subside, but grief will never truly leave. So, remember things like anniversaries, birthdays, date of death or loss. Be sensitive to events happening in your community that may be difficult for your brother or sister (weddings, celebrations, holidays, etc.). These steps require you to be intentionally consistent.
I am still amazed and deeply encouraged by brothers and sisters who remember the date of our loss and intentionally send cards and messages — even years later. Their consistency reminds me that my grief is not my own. My grief is shared by a community of brothers and sisters who proclaim good news to the world, that this earth is not our home — this is not our best life!
Hold Your Tongue…
Too often we feel the need to fill silence. We are uncomfortable with grief, and we seek ways to relieve it as quickly as possible. However, we can unintentionally harm our brothers and sisters when we seek to subdue silence with talkativeness. There have been so many times when I have stumbled over words, just trying to say something comforting to a brother or sister, only to find it would have been better to have said nothing at all and just weep with them.
We have also become too comfortable with trite, often theologically wrong, Christian clichés such as:
- “Just trust in the Lord.”
- “God is in control.”
- “God needed your loved one in heaven.”
- “God’s got this.”
- “It’ll all work out in time.”
These little sayings insinuate that the suffering person somehow lacks faith, yet these phrases often reveal a lack of faith from the person saying them. Remember, Christ grieved deeply — so intensely He sweat drops of blood. Grief is not a sign of a lack of faith, but the effort to run from or avoid grief can be. When we try to avoid grieving with a brother or sister, we demonstrate a belief that grief is something unassociated with the Christian life. But throughout Paul’s letters he reminds us that grief is entirely mingled with the Christian life, that we are a people “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). We are a walking paradox.
Grieve with Them
Be quiet, listen to their stories and learn to grieve with them. Let your heart break not only for the loss, but for what will not be. We never just lose a loved one, but we lose a future in this life with that someone — no more birthdays, no more crazy vacations, no more breakfast conversations, no more hugs and kisses, no more companionship… For example, parents grieving the loss of a child grieve not getting to watch him or her grow, graduate high school, get a first job or go to college. Understand that they are grieving each of these losses. This will help you sensitively grieve each loss with them.
Learning when not to speak and how to listen requires intentional practice, and it gives us an opportunity to truly learn from one another’s grief and suffering. We will not all experience the same things, and even if we experience similar circumstances, there will be a multitude of differences! We don’t have to experience the exact same thing to learn how to minister to one another in various trials and afflictions. See each opportunity to weep with those who weep as an opportunity to learn how to be faithful to Christ and His Church in suffering and grief. For those who grieve, know that your grief is instructive to your brothers and sisters — it is not in vain!
By the grace of God things are not as bad in this world as they could be. But because of sinful man, things are not as they should be. As a body of believers, when we grieve with one another, we proclaim these truths: things are not as they should be, the effects of sin are death, but the good news is that the righteousness of Christ gives us hope for a world where there is no more death and no more sin, a world where things are as they should be.
So don’t avoid your suffering brother or sister. Weep with those who weep.
This article originally published on June 6, 2017.