God is familiar with grief and grieving. Probably more so than we could ever imagine.
Jesus knew what it was to grieve the loss of a loved one.
Every one of the apostles had to face the deaths of friends and family members.
Whether it's the passing into eternity of an elderly family member, a miscarriage or stillbirth, the loss of a friend or coworker to illness, the death of an acquaintance — even a stranger — to an accident, or something as seemingly trivial as the death of a pet, all of us come face to face with the spirit of grief in the course of life.
Grief is neither to be feared, nor revered.
It is never to be worshiped.
Grieving — mourning loss — is a natural, normal part of the process of life. What's not natural or normal is when the spirit of grief is permitted to infiltrate our spirits, souls, and bodies like some kind of toxic mold, and then color our reactions and responses to life from that point onward.
So how do we respond properly, healthily, to tragedy, sadness, and loss without becoming infected by the spirit of grief?
Perhaps our clearest instructions are found in Isaiah 61, just past the words our Lord recited in Luke 4 to announce his arrival and assignment.
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."
Isa 61:1-3 NKJV
Knowing first that Jesus was familiar with grief and loss, it's easier to look at Isaiah's prophetic words and accept them.
In Christ, we have the oil of joy to soothe mourning, and the garment of praise to free us from the spirit of heaviness. The comfort of the Lord belongs to everyone who calls upon His name.
There is, even as the author of Ecclesiastes wrote, "a time to mourn." What we must be aware of is the temptation to allow mourning, grief and heaviness to have more sway in our lives, thinking and emotions, than joy, praise, beauty, and righteousness.
Are you consumed by death? By loss? By grief and mourning? Perhaps it's time to consider Jesus' response to death: He raised Lazarus, cast the mourners out of the house of the dead girl, and, perhaps most applicable to us, went off by Himself to spend time with His Father in prayer after learning of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist.
The common denominator? Jesus never stayed in an attitude of mourning and grief for long.
He did not allow death to define life.
Yes, it's far easier said than done, but that's just one of the reasons He sent the Holy Spirit to us: to help us exchange that spirit of heaviness for the garment of praise. If you've been tormented, twisted, or tortured by grief and mourning, whether over a life lost, or over your own youth, or lost dreams, or whatever, may today be the day you begin to exchange the spirit of heaviness for the garment of praise.
About the Author: Niki writes fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.