Overcoming Grief and Loss

Dr. Stanley helps us remember that God is able to restore our souls even if we are experiencing grief and loss during the trying times that COVID-19 has caused.

The cost of this season has been great. So many today are grieving the losses of loved ones, jobs, homes, opportunities, dreams, freedoms, and the rest. True, loss is a reality of life. But only in times of war have I seen it been more pervasive on a worldwide level—touching lives, economies, and the very fabric of our existence.

So I want to talk to you about your losses today because I realize how painful and confusing it can be when God allows someone you love or something you rely upon to be taken from you. I have experienced it many times throughout my life. You and I can experience the full range of emotions—from bewilderment to disheartenment, to debilitating numbness and paralysis, and even to intense anger.

Doubts Will Arise
We know that all things must eventually come to an end. But part of the pain of grief is that the end of anything good usually seems to come far too soon, whether it is expected or not. I recall thinking so when my mother suffered two strokes that left her incapacitated and without the ability to speak. Each day, a little more of the beautiful light within her went out. I just kept thinking, “Not yet. Not yet.”

I would kneel down beside her bed and pray for her, as she had done so often for me when I was a child. The prospect of her death was so overwhelming to me that it was almost more than I could bear. I held on to the hope that God would provide a miracle, and she would recover. As a person who believes in the Lord’s supernatural healing power, I knew that He could restore her, and everything would be alright. But the grim reality was that my days and moments with her were growing short. And on Sunday, November 29, 1992, God took my mother, Rebecca, home to heaven.

It was one of the most excruciatingly painful things I have ever experienced. I would almost become physically ill when I thought about the loving arms that comforted me and the sweet face that encouraged me being lowered into the ground and buried. But the Lord would remind me, “Charles, she isn’t there. Your mother is with Me.” Then He brought to mind the awesome truth of 2 Corinthians 5:8, that my mother was “absent from the body and . . . at home with the Lord.”

That gave me a great deal of comfort in the wake of such a significant loss. But I confess that as I sat at mom’s memorial service, overwhelming thoughts of uncertainty assailed my mind. Why would God allow this? Suppose there is no resurrection. Suppose this is the very last I will ever be with her. What if I never see her again? Why didn’t God stop this?

Those doubts will arise whenever we experience profound grief, and they can shake us to the core and consume us. Thankfully, at that moment, sitting in front of my mother’s casket, Scripture verse after Scripture verse kept coming to my mind confirming Jesus’ promises to us:

  • “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” –John 3:16
  • “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” –John 11:25-26
  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” –1 Pet. 1:3

 

That was a powerful moment: one I will never forget. There is a resurrection for those who believe in Christ. I will see my mother again. And we will be together with all our believing loved ones again in the presence of God for eternity. In my heart I cried out, “All praise and honor and glory to Jesus, who gives us this living hope!”

Let Him Lead You Through
That was what got me through having to bury my mother—the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the grave two thousand years ago. And because He did, we know we will too (2 Cor. 4:14). Because of His provision, I am absolutely certain my mother is more alive than she’s ever been and that not only will I hear her voice again, but I will have eternity to enjoy her presence and worship Jesus together with her.

But even as the experience reinforced my faith, it also helped me to relate to people who sit in front of coffins, where there is no assurance of salvation or expectation that they’ll ever see their loved ones again. Because those are the moments when everything we believe, whether for good or ill, becomes excruciatingly real.

And if it’s your business, your home, your health, or your dreams you’ve lost, and there is no guarantee they will ever be restored to you, the heavy emotions can take a toll, and despair can take hold.

To you, Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Your Savior understands that what you need most when the pain overwhelms you and your world seems to be falling apart is His presence. You need Someone to carry the burden of your suffering and teach you how to rest in the midst of it. You need the hope He gives.

Now, it would be impossible for me to address every question or aspect of loss in an article, and I will not attempt to. But what I can tell you is that grief is not something that can or ever should be cut short. All the saintly words in the world will never fill a grieving heart. This is not something we can talk ourselves out of. We cannot just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and soldier on without dealing with the emotion. Rather, you and I must allow the mourning to run its full course so that we can experience the healing our heavenly Father intends.

This is one of the reasons Jesus continues by saying, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:29-30). Yes, this is about finding our salvation in Him. But it is also about transforming every aspect of our lives, especially the burdens that weary us such as the losses we experience.

The Process to Victory
Counselors often tell us that there are five stages of grief: shock and denial, anger or guilt, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Recognizing them can help us understand what we’re going through while we’re grieving. This is important because instead of stifling our emotions, lashing out at God or loved ones, or engaging in destructive behaviors to dull the pain, we can deal with them in a healthy manner that will bring us closer to the Father.

For example, during the bargaining stage, there may be times when we wonder if we could have done more. But whether we harmed our loved one or situation deliberately (by actively doing something destructive) or unintentionally (by failing to do something that would have helped), we must remember that the grace of God covers us. Whether we are experiencing the false guilt that sometimes accompanies grief or a real sense of responsibility about something we’ve indeed done wrong, the Father is ready, willing, and able to forgive us completely for whatever we have done amiss.

As 1 John 1:9 reminds us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We must embrace and claim that truth in its entirety because when we do, we draw closer to Him and can grow in a beneficial way through that stage of grief. 

But I think that what we ultimately find is that all of these stages are in response to the profound emptiness we feel. We try to make sense of it, but at times, we cannot even pinpoint where the emotions are coming from because they are so deep and such an integral part of us.

The best thing at such times is to use your grief as a bridge to a deeper relationship with God. Do not avoid Him, even when you are angry. Instead, take every doubt and sorrow to Him. Surrender your emotions and emptiness to the Father. Give Him control over everything you feel, asking Him to give you understanding and rest in it.

Don’t sin in your emotions by trying to drown them out or soothe the pain in your own way. Instead, realize that there are aspects of your personhood that even you don’t comprehend, and ask God to give you the wisdom to deal with the feelings you’re having because that is where true healing begins. As Proverbs 3:7-8 instructs, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.”

Likewise, believe that God will bring something useful from your grief. Whenever He allows you to experience difficulty, He always has a purpose in mind (Rom. 8:28). That is what the apostle Paul meant when he said that we, as believers in eternal life through Christ, do “not grieve as do the rest who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). As those redeemed by Jesus, the grave cannot steal our hope. The losses aren’t an end; they can be, and often are, a beginning.

For example, remember that God comforts you so that you will be able to console others in the sufferings they experience (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Therefore, you may find meaning in your loss when you take the opportunity to pass on what you learn during your time of grief to others and help them through their adversity.

So even though this is a season of loss, choose to rest in God’s wisdom, love, and power, and never let go of your faith in Him. Don’t let your griefs destroy you. Instead, say, “Lord, when I am weary and heavy-laden, I will trust in You. Teach me to take up Your yoke and enter into Your rest.” Because certainly, He is gentle and humble in heart, and He knows exactly what is needed to restore your soul and help you through whatever you face.

 

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What happens to my notes

8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

25 Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,

26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?"

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.

28 Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

8 It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

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