Grief That Persists
When someone is grieving, oftentimes, we ask them How are you doing? because we really care. Or sometimes, someone we’ll ask someone else about the grieving person. How are they doing with this?
What’s interesting is usually someone will answer that question something like, “Doing well,” or “Not doing well.” They’re judging that person's condition by whether or not the person is deeply sad—which is not really the way to judge whether or not a person is grieving well.
The very definition of grieving with hope, or grieving well, is to have taken hold of the confidence that this life is not all there is.
The reality is when you lose someone you love, it makes sense that you would be really sad, and maybe for a really long time. So, sadness itself doesn't necessarily mean someone isn’t dealing with it or not doing well. The ability to face up to the sadness is a very appropriate way to grieve. So, once again, what does it mean to grieve well?
We Have Hope
I think the Bible helps us with that in 1 Thessalonians where it puts it in the negative saying that we should not grieve as others do who have no hope. So, there is a way to grieve that’s hopeless. And what does that look like? We think about hope in very vague terms, often times we use the word hope like crossing our fingers and hoping something good happens. But of course, that’s not the way the Bible uses the word hope.
The way the Bible uses the word hope is centered on the living person of Jesus Christ. But, even more than that, in this passage, there’s something very specific about what it means to grieve with hope. Paul goes on talking about Jesus’s death, resurrection, and specifically about his coming again, and what’s going to happen when he comes again. It says he’s going to bring with him all those who have fallen asleep, that he’s going to descend from heaven with the cry of a command with the voice of an archangel, with the sound of the trumpet of God.
Here’s the essence of what it means to grieve with hope:
And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive who are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be together with the Lord.
Practical and down-to-earth, this short guide will equip you to come alongside a loved one who is hurting and offer comfort in ways that really help.
This Isn’t It
The very definition of grieving with hope, or grieving well, is to have taken hold of the confidence that this life is not all there is. And neither is our confidence in the midst of grief simply just going to heaven when we die, or at least our soul going to heaven when our body goes in the ground. It's deeper, it’s richer than that. It's a confidence in the return of Christ, and his calling our dead body out of the grave to be reunited with our soul, and to live forever with him on a resurrected earth.
To grieve well is to have a growing sense of confidence and rest that God's promises of resurrection, centered in the resurrected Jesus, are really true—and that it’s going to be good. It’s to set our hearts on that day when Jesus calls the person we love out of the grave. And on that day, they will be glorious, and will forever be with the Lord.
- What Is Our Only Hope in Life and Death? (Timothy J. Keller, John Calvin)
- Nancy Guthrie's Story of Hope in the Midst of Grief
- What to Say to a Grieving Person (Nancy Guthrie)