Christians understand that the true source of grief is not random events or diseases, but the condition of sin in which we and the rest of the world are in because of our rebellion. So when we grieve, we are acknowledging the entire broken state of the world which had led to all these occasions of loss, sadness, and pain. In this way, we mourn the loss of the right relationship the entire world had with God, and we are longing for it all to be put right again.
Like many of you, I watched the news of the escalating Middle Eastern conflict slack-jawed. Rockets. Gunfire. Invaders. Hostages. It went on and on, and I wondered how to respond to this. I wondered how to respond as a nation, and how to respond as an individual. While there are differing opinions all along the spectrum, including differences of opinion amongst believers in Jesus, surely at least there is one response we all have in common:
I felt, as you likely did, a tremendous sense of grief at the violence, death, suffering, and promise of more to come. I did not know any of these people directly; I had no friends or family in Gaza at the time; I have never even set foot in that part of the world. But I felt it. Certainly not as acutely as many, but it was present nevertheless. This feeling of pain and loss and sadness and confusion all coming together in an amalgamation of grief.
One of the places in Scripture that embraces grief and then speaks clarity into it comes from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
This passage is encouraging first and foremost because it validates our grief. Sometimes, as Christians, we tend to push grief away as if it’s wrong to be sad about our present circumstances when we are confident about what is to come. But Paul knew didn’t advise that – not at all. After all, the Lord Himself wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus (Jn. 11:35-38).