How God’s Love Helps Me With My Grief

How God’s Love Helps Me With My Grief September 12, 2018

How God's Love Helps Me With My Grief

How God’s Love Helps Me With My Grief

Matthew 26:26-31

When his dog dies, Johnny, five, bursts out crying. His dog has been his constant companion; it slept at the foot of his bed. Now the dog is gone, and little Johnny is a basket case.

Johnny’s dad stammers a bit and says, “Uh, don’t feel bad, Johnny, we’ll get you a new dog.”

It is lesson one in society’s grief management program: Bury your feelings; replace your losses. Once you have the new dog, you won’t think about the old one anymore.

Years later, Johnny falls in love with a high school freshman girl. The world has never looked brighter until she dumps him. Suddenly a curtain covers the sun. Johnny’s heart is broken with big-time hurt. He is a wreck. But Mom comes to the rescue, saying, “Don’t feel bad, John, there are other fish in the sea.”

Lesson two: Bury the pain, replace the loss.

Much later, John’s grandfather dies—the one he fished with every summer and felt close to. A note is slipped to him in math class. He reads the note and breaks into sobs. The teacher sends him to the school office.

John’s father picks him up from school. His mother is weeping in the living room, and John wants to hug her. But his dad says, “Don’t disturb her, John; she needs to be alone. She’ll be all right in a little while. Then the two of you can talk.”

Lesson three: Grieve alone.

Let’s review. Bury your feelings; replace your losses; grieve alone; let time heal; live with regret; never trust again. That has been society’s approach for years.1

But there is a better way to deal with sadness and grief. Jesus can relate to us when it comes to sadness. Jesus experienced real sadness in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion.

In John 11, Jesus expresses grief at the loss of a friend. Yes, He would restore Lazarus, but the grief was real because the loss was real. Jesus was grieving because a family had lost someone dear to them. Yet the loss was temporary.

Here, we have Jesus experiencing true grief. He says that He is “grieved” to the point of death.

What made Jesus grieve? Why was He so sad? His upcoming death would bring Jesus so much grief. Not because He would die from crucifixion. Instead, it was the taking on of the sin of the world.

So how did Jesus work through His grief? He could not avoid it. He did not abandon it. Instead, He worked through it. How did He do it?

THREE SIMPLE STEPS TO HELP WORK THROUGH GRIEF

Because I am troubled (Matthew 26:38)

He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”” (Matthew 26:38, CSB)

Jesus was deeply troubled. He was grieved. Like His experience in John 11, Jesus was grieved about His upcoming death. We see in the Gospel of Matthew a progression in which it is revealed how Jesus is dealing with His upcoming death.

JESUS’ PRE-OCCUPATION WITH HIS UPCOMING DEATH

Jesus spoke openly to His disciples of His upcoming death. There is a progression in the Gospels where Jesus explains to His disciples that He will die.

Jesus explains for the FIRST time of His upcoming death after Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah

From then on Jesus began to point out to his disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Matthew 16:21, CSB)

Then after He took Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration, where they saw a vision, Jesus reminded these three disciples that they should wait until after He is raised from the dead.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone about the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”” (Matthew 17:9, CSB)

Jesus reminds His full band of disciples three times about His upcoming death, burial and resurrection.

Jesus reminds the full band of disciples a SECOND time. Here, the disciples were “distressed.”

As they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised up.” And they were deeply distressed.” (Matthew 17:22–23, CSB)

This is the same word used later when Jesus is “troubled.” The disciples, and later Jesus, are grieved about the prospect of Jesus’ death.

Then Jesus reminds His disciples a THIRD time why they are going to Jerusalem.

““See, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death. They will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified, and on the third day he will be raised.”” (Matthew 20:18–19, CSB)

So Jesus has warned His disciples that this would happen. Emotionally, He is grieving His upcoming death. What does Jesus do when He feels this way? The first thing He does is seek out His closest friends.

1. I seek the comfort of others (Matthew 26:36-37)

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.” (Matthew 26:36–37, CSB)

Being around the company of others who are willing to share in my grief will help me. As Christians, we were never designed to deal with sadness and grief alone.

As a matter of fact, when I spend an enormous amount of time in sadness and grief alone, I can potentially be tempted to harm myself. Instead, I should reach out to other people and seek their comfort. God can use the love and comfort of other people to help me when I am sad.

At the same time, this passage teaches us that Jesus is with us when we go through a very emotionally sad and grieving experience. When we are sad, even depressed, we can know that Jesus by His Holy Spirit.

He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4, CSB)

On the flipside, when I see that someone is sad, hurt, and grieving, I need to be able to reach out and comfort them.

Because I am weak (Matthew 26:40-41)

Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” (Matthew 26:40–41, CSB)

Crying is common in this world. It does little good to ask the reason for it. Muddyscuttle is what one might call a weeping planet. Laughter can be heard here and there, but by and large, weeping predominates. With maturity the sound and reason for crying changes, but never does it stop. All infants do it everywhere—even in public. By adulthood most crying is done alone and in the dark. Weeping, for babies, is a sign of health and evidence that they are alive. Isn’t this a chilling omen?

Not laughter but tears is the life sign. It leaves weeping and being synonyms.2

2. I pray to help me process (Matthew 26:39)

Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”” (Matthew 26:39, CSB)

I don’t know about you, but when I am grieving, I get weak. People may look at this and wonder that it was horrible that the disciples were caught sleeping while Jesus was praying. We look at this and we think the disciples are wrong for sleeping “on the job.”

Yet, the reality is that when we are grieving, when we are sad, we can easily get tired. The spirit wants to pray to God, but the flesh is so weak. The body gets weak.

Luke says they were sleeping for sorrow, worn out by His agony.3

When he got up from prayer and came to the disciples, he found them sleeping, exhausted from their grief.” (Luke 22:45, CSB)

Because I receive strength to process my grief (Matthew 26:45)

Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? See, the time is near. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Matthew 26:45, CSB)

So the disciples were sleeping because they were so worn out from grief. Grief can do that. So where can I get the strength to deal with my grief? Where did Jesus receive His strength? He received His inner strength to deal with His upcoming death by accepting it as God’s will.

3. I accept God’s will (Matthew 26:42,44)

Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”” (Matthew 26:39, CSB)

Again, a second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42, CSB)

After leaving them, he went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.” (Matthew 26:44, CSB)

First, Jesus asked: “Let this cup pass from me.” Then Jesus said: “If this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Then Jesus said the same thing again.

Jesus prayed and this prayer showed Him that He had to accept death as the answer to His prayer. After this prayer, Jesus told the disciples that “the time is near.” He was ready to accept what would happen to Himself.

The same is true for us. When I am sad, and I take my problem to God in prayer, eventually God will reveal His will. It may take time while I am grieving to see it. But God will show His will. When He does, I need to accept it.

What would have happened if Jesus had rejected God’s will at this moment? Can you imagine what would have happened if Jesus fell into the temptation to avoid suffering and the cross? This grief, which Jesus experienced was so intense that even with the help of angels, He still sweat drops of blood. Luke describes this in another place:

Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him. Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he got up from prayer and came to the disciples, he found them sleeping, exhausted from their grief.” (Luke 22:43–45, CSB)

This grief was painful for Jesus. Grief can do that. It can cause real anguish. Yet, just as Jesus received the strength He needed to accept God’s will for Him, God will also help you during your time of sadness, anguish, and grief.

An anonymous author has expressed it this way:

“He knows the bitter, weary way;

He knows the endless striving day by day;

He knows how hard the fight has been;

The clouds that come our lives between,

The wounds the world hath never seen,

He knows.

He knows! O thought so full of bliss!

For though our joys on earth we miss,

We still can bear it, feeling this,

HE KNOWS!”4

1 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 363–364. From: Bill Hybels, “A Better Kind of Grieving,” Preaching Today Audio, no. 108

2 Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations (Biblical Studies Press, 2002). From: Calvin Miller, The Valiant Papers, p. 22

3 Myron S. Augsburger and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Matthew, vol. 24, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), 18.

4 Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 1314.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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How God’s Love Helps Me With My Emotions

How God’s Love Helps Me With My Fears

How God’s Love Helps Me With My Anger

How God’s Love Helps Me Lead a Life of Joy

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