“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted…”
Knowing how to properly comfort another during a time of grief and loss is one of the great challenges of the Christian life. On many occasions as we follow the Scriptural instruction to weep with those who weep, we’ll find that our tears and our presence are the only expressions of comfort necessary. Yet there are also times when mourners need more than a comforting presence alone, they need words of truth and hope around which they can wrap their hurting hearts. Perhaps you or someone you know are in that place of mourning. If so, I hope God will use the following letter to minister grace to you in your time of need.
In a recent biblical counseling assignment, I was asked to read the book From Grief to Glory and then write a two-page letter to parents who had written to request counsel after suffering the loss of their 4 year-old daughter to cancer. This is what I wrote…
It was with a mixture of sadness and joy that I read your letter. I felt sadness first, because my heart is grieved to hear of the suffering and indescribable pain which the two of you experienced as you cared for your precious daughter throughout her long illness and which you are now experiencing as you mourn your tremendous loss. Yet in spite of the great sadness, I also felt joy in reading your letter as I saw that though your pain is excruciating, you have not allowed it to overwhelm you. You are holding fast to your faith and reaching out for the help that you need to endure this trial. That is a true miracle for which we can praise God.
In response to your request for counsel that will strengthen and help you during your time of mourning, I am sending you this letter. Before I attempt to share advice that I pray you will find helpful, I want to clarify that on my own I would be utterly powerless to say one word that would give you comfort. I have not been where you have been, nor felt the pain that you feel every moment of every day. If all I had to rely on was my personal experience and knowledge, I would have nothing to offer you. But thankfully, God has given us His Word which is sufficient to guide us through every trial that the human soul could ever face. It is from the rich treasure of the Scriptures that I have drawn the counsel which I share with you today. Because I believe God’s Word contains everything that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), I know that it is there that you will find all the help and hope that your hurting hearts so desperately need.
You are in a deep state of grief right now, and that is right and proper in the wake of such a loss as yours. God gave you your little girl as a treasure to love and cherish, and you did that well during her brief time here on earth. Children are one of God’s greatest earthly gifts, and as such, they provide us with unique experiences of joy that cannot be found outside of parenthood. With your daughter’s departure from this world, you have lost not only the joys that you had grown accustomed to experiencing in her presence, but also all of the joys that you had expected to enjoy throughout your future together. The mourning of these losses is a proper response from loving parents. Your grieving process will take time, probably a very long time, but God will provide you with the grace you need to come to a place of healing. Keep your hearts fixed on that hope. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5).
Even though your grieving is great, I want to remind you that as believers, you are not grieving in the same way as those who don’t know Christ. Because you know Him and the power of His resurrection, you can grieve the loss of your daughter with hope. She is not lost to you forever, but has only fallen asleep in Jesus. Our great hope as Christians is that just as Christ was raised from the dead, so we too will one day experience the resurrection of our earthly bodies when He returns (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Because of Christ’s resurrection, we can look forward to the resurrection of our loved ones with confidence and say with the writers of Scripture, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55). Although the pain of your daughter being unable to return to you is weighty, your load will be made slightly lighter as you look forward to the day when you will be free to go to her and spend eternity together in the presence of our Savior (2 Sam. 12:22-23).
You may feel isolated and lonely as you realize that friends and family members are failing to comprehend your grief. In their attempt to comfort you, people will likely say things that actually bring you more pain. In these moments, remember that though they may do a poor job of it, your loved ones do want to help and encourage you. Remembering this fact will help you to be patient in the midst of others’ awkward attempts to provide comfort. In those times when it seems that every human being you know is incapable of empathizing with your pain, run to your Savior for help, knowing that He understands your experience perfectly. The book of Isaiah tells us that when God’s people experienced affliction, He, too, felt the pain of that affliction (Is. 63:9). As you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, remember that you are not walking alone. Your Shepherd is guiding you safely through the darkness. Stay close to His side as you share your heart with Him in prayer, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Ps. 62:8), and as you find guidance in the Scriptures, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). The burden of your loss is too great for you to carry alone, and God never intended for you to do so. “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Ps. 55:22).
Perhaps the greatest question plaguing your mind in the wake of your tragic loss is “Why?” It is not wrong for you to ask this question as long as you are willing to leave the timing of the answer in the Lord’s hands. As much as we in our humanness are prone to believe that our grief would be greatly relieved if we only knew the reason for our pain, God knows that our need to know Him is far greater than our need to know the answer to any question. At the end of Job’s epic experience of suffering, God didn’t console him by pulling back the veil separating the physical realm from the spiritual to reveal Satan’s assault against him. He reminded Job instead of the incomprehensible greatness of His power and wisdom. Although God may allow you to catch glimpses of the reason behind your suffering, He will only fully reveal the answers when you too depart this world to enter His presence. Until then, console your hearts with the knowledge that God in His wisdom has a plan, and that even when we can’t see it, that plan is good. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:9).
Romans 8:28-29 is so familiar to us that we often ignore the tremendous comfort God has provided for us in those two verses, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” As His children, God loves you far more than you could ever imagine. He will not allow your suffering to go to waste, but will use every last bit of pain you’ve endured to accomplish His good and glorious purposes in your lives. Through this experience, you will become more like Jesus Christ, you will know God in ways you never could have otherwise, and you will bring Him more glory on this earth. Cling to Him as you seek His strength to walk by faith and not by sight until you reach that glorious day when, “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” (Rev. 21:4).
Praying that the God of all comfort will strengthen you with His amazing grace,
Related Post: God’s Love for the Little Ones
Photo: Nino Satria