Starting October 2 the Bible in a Year Blog will resume daily posts that follow a one-year Bible reading plan. You can find a link to the reading plan here. We will read through the New Testament first, and then on January 1 will begin daily posts covering the Old Testament with the final OT post on October 1 of 2019. Now would be the time to commit to a plan of reading the Bible all the way through in one year. You will read about three chapters a day on average. The Bible in a Year Blog will provide helpful commentary for your daily reading. If you prefer to start with the Old Testament first, plan on joining us on January 1.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
“How can I survive the pain of my loss?”
I first knew grief when my dog died when I was 13 years old. No one could have prepared me for that pain, even though every person will experience grief. Similar to Kubler-Ross’s stages of dying, grieving persons pass through a variety of emotions and thoughts. Denial, anger, bargaining with God to change the outcome, depression, and hopefully a final acceptance. Many persons in the Bible suffered great loss and sadness, including Job, Naomi, and David. Even Jesus mourned for Lazarus, weeping over the death of his friend and the grief of the family members.
Grief is a normal response to loss and its pain. There is nothing wrong with grieving. Times of grief serve a purpose. Ecclesiastes says that the living should take account of death and learn from it for it is the end of all mankind. Grief gives us a new perspective on life. But we should remember that grief is meant to be temporary and that “rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Grief has meaning, but it also has limits.
The Bible account of King David’s life includes two grief experiences which were very different. First came the death of his and Bathsheba’s son after their adulterous affair. David fasted and prayed for the child for a week as the boy lay dying, but after his death David moved on.
His servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12:21-23
Years later when his son, Absalom, rebelled against his father and then died in battle, David’s grief experience was very different. At a time when his nation needed him to show leadership, the king was incapacitated by pain and loss.
It was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for the people heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines, because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.” 2 Samuel 19:1-6
In the first case, David took his mourning to God, but in the loss of Absalom it appears he grieved alone. When his baby died, David took an eternal perspective on his loss and was able to accept it. When Absalom died, he may have been locked in a dark present without hope in the future.
Sharing our loss and pain with others is an important part of successful grieving. When we keep our anger or pain inside, it eventually comes out in unhealthy ways such as depression. Too often the hurting shun others leading to increased feelings of isolation and misery. But some studies suggest that the best way to overcome the worst cases of grief is for the survivor to retell the story of their loved one’s death. The body of Christ eases the burdens of its individual members (Galatians 6:2) and can “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).
We also need to share our loss with God, and we are given an excellent example of how to do this in the laments found in the book of Psalms. Psalm 13, quoted above, and Psalm 3 are good examples. Following their outline, we begin by describing our struggle or conflict. We tell God openly and honestly of our anger, hurt, or sadness. We lay our need before him. We acknowledge God’s presence with us, and then we praise him for his faithfulness.
Do you know someone locked in grief, or are you grieving yourself? Here are some Biblical principles to help you grieve successfully:
- Give your hurt to Jesus. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” Isaiah 53:4
- Keep a heavenly perspective. “Sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Thessalonians 4:13
- Do not lock yourself in the past. “Reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
- Accept the promises of God. “Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” Isaiah 51:11
Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o’er wrought heart and bids it break. – Shakespeare
All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. – Havelock Ellis
“She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.” – George Eliot