In the church we often are unsure of how to handle grief. To grieve- whether the death of a loved one or the loss of a job or dream- is sometimes thought to demonstrate a lack of faith or an unwillingness to submit to God’s ways. If God is good and He has allowed this, then why do you want something different? Do you not believe that God’s ways are best? If you are grieving a death, do you not believe in the resurrection?
Of course our grief can involve rebellion against God, fostering anger at God for not doing as we willed. And our grief can be connected to a failure to trust that God is good and His ways are best. However, not all grief is so tainted. There is a rightness to grief, and those who would eliminate it all together fail to embrace our humanity and to face squarely that things are not the way they are supposed to be. Jesus wept and groaned inwardly at the results of sin (John 11:33, 35-36, 38).
This is nicely pictured in The Last Battle as Narnia is finally destroyed. Having seen the final destruction of Narnia and then being called further into a beautiful new land, Peter is surprised to find that Lucy is crying. He says, “What, Lucy! You’re not crying? With Aslan ahead, and all of us here?” Lucy, who always “gets it” more than the others, replies, “Don’t try to stop me, Peter. I am sure Aslan would not. I am sure it is not wrong to mourn for Narnia. Think of all that lies dead and frozen behind that door.” Eventually Tirian weighs in saying, “The ladies do well to weep. See I do so myself. I have seen my mother’s death…. It were no virtue, but great discourtesy, if we did not mourn.”
Here is significant pastoral wisdom. Scripture tells us not to grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13). It does not forbid grieving but instructs us on the manner of our grieving. Not to grieve over the death of a loved one would be inhuman and unnatural. It would be “a great discourtesy.” To stand beside a friend, a church member, who has just seen some cherished dream slip away and fail to share in his grief is indeed “a great discourtesy.” Such stoicism does not communicate so much faith as it does lack of care. After Jesus weeps at the tomb of Lazarus, the crowd says, “See how He loved him” (John 11:35-36).
Scripture tells us to mourn with those who mourn (Rom 12:15). We are to share in the grief of others and honestly face our own, not to hide behind platitudes. In fact the glorious promises of the gospel tend to be seen most magnificently through the veil of tears. So in the face of loss or grief, mourn and cling to the blessed hope.