by: Casey Carnicle

Grief – a deep sorrow usually caused by someone’s death.

Let’s talk about grief. Scripture has a lot to say about grief and eventually each and every one of us will experience it.

It is generally accepted that there are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There are some variations to the model, but this is the most widely accepted.

Grieving the loss of a loved one can be earth shattering, compounded by the physical effects that can manifest in the body.

“Grief increases inflammation, which can worsen health problems you already have and create new ones. It batters the immune system, leaving you depleted and vulnerable to infection. The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. Intense grief can weaken the heart muscle so much that it causes “broken heart syndrome”, a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as a heart attack.” – WebMD

One way I find solace in my grief is through reading God’s word. I know, I know…that might sound cliche, but I find great comfort in the continuity of the human experience from the beginning of time between the covers of my Bible.

Take for instance, David. This man was who you might call a “manly” man. He worked hard tending his father’s flocks as a boy. He fought off bears, lions, and eventually Goliath. He was made a general over King Saul’s armies and married the King’s daughter; only to then have the King turn around and put a hit out on his life. Eventually David becomes King, but how did a man like David deal with grief?

“Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.” 2 Samuel 1:11-12

David’s grief was so overwhelming that he tore his clothes and wept. It says he fasted until evening also. Have you ever felt pain that intense? Have you ever been so overridden by emotion that you have no desire for food? I have.

Another example of a people dealing with grief is in the Book of Lamentations. A little background here: whoever authored this book (probably the prophet Jeremiah) wrote it sometime after the third deportation of the people of Judah to Babylon. These people have been forced out of their homeland, their beloved city and Temple has been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar.

The author describes his emotional state as:

“My eyes are spent with weeping;
my stomach churns;
my bile is poured out to the ground
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
because infants and babies faint
in the streets of the city.” Lamentations 2:11

He was all cried out, every last tear spent. I can imagine them red, swollen, irritated. I can identify with those types of tears. He goes out to say his “bile is poured out to the ground”. The destruction, terror, and death he was witnessing made him physically nauseous to the point of vomiting.

We’ve been blessed so far as to have not suffered any foreign invasions here in the US over the centuries. However, maybe you or someone you know has been displaced due to a fire or a natural disaster. You’ve lost all of your possessions. Your friends and loved ones are now scattered or lost. This is what the people of Judah were experiencing at the time Lamentations was written and matters only made worse by the cruelty of a foreign regime.

There are numerous qualified examples within Scripture to shed light on the most grueling of human experiences that we know of as grief; but this last one…Ah, this last one just gets me. When I read it, it’s like a thump to my heart.

I’m going to give a little background as to what is taking place here before I share those two little words that resonate so deeply in my soul when I read them.

Our Messiah loved people. He loved being among the common folk, partaking in the life experience. He ate, drank, celebrated all of the beautiful moments and gifts that life gives us such as weddings, and children. He laughed. He made friends. He partook of the human experience as we all do.

Jesus…Jesus was close friends with a trio of siblings; Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. While he was off on his travels sharing and ministering to people, Lazarus became critically ill.

We know Lazarus was on his death bed because we’re told the Jewish community in their village was there consoling his sisters. The women caught wind that Jesus was on his way to the village, and Mary, Lazarus’ sister, rushed out to find him. She knew he had the power to heal, yet when she found Jesus; well, you will see…

“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:32

Anger. Blame. Denial. She knew Jesus was a holy man. She knew to show reverence as he was anointed by God, that’s why she fell and knelt at his feet, but she was angry at the situation. Angry that not even her brother who was close friends with the anointed one of God could escape death. Angry that the one person who could have saved him was not there when her brother needed him most. She blamed Jesus, but really in all actuality, she blamed God; because after all Jesus was God’s image bearer.

Whewwww…Just pause. Just pause and reflect on that. If you have never felt that type of anger and emotion towards the Almighty, kudos to you. Really, much applause; but I have, and I can identify with the rawness of this encounter.

And how did Jesus take it?

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” John 11:33

Now this is important, so very important, for those of you who may not be grieving but know someone who is, or maybe you’re grieving to a lesser extent than the other person. It says our Messiah was deeply moved in his spirit. I imagine at this moment Jesus is empathizing with Mary’s sorrow and grief. We are told he is greatly troubled, as he begins to internalize the news and his own grief begins to rise. Maybe he was greatly troubled even because Mary just projected her anger onto him.

What is important is to watch how he responded to it all, and this is the part that sends a thump to my heart. Those two words that get me every time.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

Just let that sink in for a moment…

Our Messiah knew he had been given the power to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew he was going to do it. But in that moment, seeing the brokenness of his people, his friends, he joined them in their mourning and “Jesus wept.”

That’s my kind of King right there. That is someone I’m not ashamed to give ownership and rulership of my life over to. Not some mystical deity that plays Cards Against Humanity up in the sky. No. Someone who lived the human experience. Someone who walked, talked, breathed, lived, laughed, loved, sweat, bled, and yes, wept.

It is these dark, grievous moments in life when sometimes all we have is our faith to carry us through. I think God knew that about us. He knew that we needed someone tangible whom we could relate to, so He sent Jesus.

And there’s hope in him. Hope is a very valuable force in the human experience.

Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

…and Scripture gives us that hope, in Jesus.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

If you are mourning or grieving, please know that you are not alone. It is part of the human experience. Consider finding solace in God’s Word. Talk with loved ones about your process. Pray. Get out into nature. Exercise. And if depression sets in, don’t be afraid or ashamed to talk to a medical professional to help you climb out of the valley. Many a great men and women before you have experienced the different stages of grief. You’re in good company and it’s just another part of the human experience.