People have asked me this question enough times that I thought it deserved some attention: “Are Christians supposed to grieve?” Confusion even leads some Christians to feel guilty when they do grieve and to question the strength of their faith.
Let’s set the record straight up front. Just because you’re a Christian does not mean you will not experience grief. Grief goes together with any significant loss, regardless of your beliefs. Giving yourself permission to experience the pain of your loss is the healthy approach. People sometimes try to escape from grief by attempting to hide from it, by staying so busy they don’t have to think about their loss, or by pushing down their emotions. They think if they can avoid feeling the grief, or thinking about what has happened, the grief will eventually just fade away. Grief doesn’t work that way.
You can run from grief, but you cannot escape from it. Unresolved grief will show up in various ways – in physical symptoms, illness, or relationship difficulties. You may even struggle spiritually, if you do not face your grief. Depending on how you try to to cover up your pain, you may eventually have to deal with some type of addiction, depression, or other condition. Grieving has a purpose, and the process is normal and healthy.
Christians and Grief
Christians sometimes think they should not have to grieve. I guess they think that either God will take away their pain, or that one way or another they should just be able to handle their loss without going through the process of facing it. When they are overwhelmed with pain, they sometimes feel guilty – as though if they were stronger Christians they could manage the pain easier or deal with their situation better. They sometimes think they’re not trusting God enough or they don’t have adequate faith.
Make no mistake, I believe in miracles, and I believe God has the power to do anything. I know of one situation where a spouse was ill for an extended time. The couple had been married for years, and the wife began to grieve before her husband died. They were extremely close. Not too many months after his death, she told me God had taken away her sadness. I certainly believe her, and I know God can do that. However, what happened with her is a little different than the way things typically work. And if that’s not your experience, do not assume there’s something wrong with you or that your relationship with God is flawed.
Be Gentle and Avoid Comparing
During grief, please be gentle with yourself! We’re often critical of ourselves when we think we’re not progressing quickly enough. We compare our journey with someone else’s and wonder why we’re not doing as well. Or we find another way to criticize ourselves. Everyone is different; each person’s situation is unique; and we all progress in different ways and at our own speed. Just accept these realities and walk your own path. Be honest with yourself and with God about your thoughts and feelings.
God will surely be right beside you and will comfort you when you seek Him. I’m not saying it’s easy or that you won’t struggle, more so at certain times than others. I won’t tell you that you’ll never feel depressed or incredibly sad or lonely. However, I can tell you for certain that the peace that passes understanding is real and is available.
During my husband’s memorial service, I experienced the kind of peace the Bible talks about, and I felt it to a greater degree than I ever have in my life. As I hugged the folded flag over my heart, and stood on the patio of our church while jets flew over in formation and shots were fired in a 21-gun salute, an all-embracing peace enveloped me. I knew that I knew that I knew … that somehow, everything would be okay. I have never felt such a peace as strongly as I did that day. I’ve never needed that kind of peace as much as I did that day. And I remember thinking, ‘This is the peace that passes understanding.’
So in answer to the question, “Are Christians supposed to grieve?” – My reply is emphatically, “Yes!” Please allow yourself the time and space to feel the feelings that accompany your loss. Facing the pain and adjusting to the way your life has changed are crucial to living a healthy, happy life going forward.
What has your experience been? Weigh in with your thoughts …
© 2015 Judy Brizendine
Photo courtesy of fotofrenze
Real Christians Grieve – Grantley Morris
Godly Grieving – Rachel Henderson
Is It Okay to Grieve? Or Should You Just Be Quiet? – Mark D. Roberts