The holiday season can be a beautiful thing.
But for those of us who have lost loved ones, it can also be a very painful thing.
Yet, there is little space provided for our grief during the holiday season. Instead, we are made to feel guilty for our grief by the constant reminders that this is the season of joy and giving, things we can't seem to find the energy for.
Similar things happen at many contemporary funerals. We are told to celebrate the life of our loved one, but are never really given the opportunity to grieve. In fact, we are often made to feel guilty for our grief by pastors and family members who tell us that so-and-so wouldn't want you to cry any tears for them, and that we are here to celebrate their life, not focus on their death.
Yet grief is good.
That's not my psychology major talking.
That's the pastor in me talking.
The Scriptures do not make us feel guilty for our grief. Instead, they encourage us to grieve just as God grieves. In hopes that you would feel the freedom to do that this holiday season, I've included an excerpt from a sermon I preached on this topic at a recent funeral.
It is through the Word of God that we hear God speak to our needs during our times of grief. Hear these words about our great God from 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Why We Grieve
Many of you who are here today are grieving. Grieving in the face of death is good, and grieving is appropriate. But have you ever wondered why? Why is it that we grieve when death comes? How is it that we know grieving to be the right response when death comes? If you think about it, every single person dies and yet we still seem to be caught off guard, even to the point of grief. We know that every day we live is a day closer to our own death, a day closer to the death of those that we love, and yet we still cannot help but respond to the inevitable with grief. Why? Because deep down inside we know – we just know – that this is not how it is supposed to be. Maybe we can’t put our finger on it, maybe we can’t explain it, but somewhere inside we know that this is not how the world is supposed to be. We grieve because we know that something about what we’re experiencing, something about death, is just not right. And the words we just read reveal precisely what is wrong: the Scripture says that we need to be reconciled to God. To reconcile is to take two parties who are not in right relationship with each other and bring them into harmonious relationship. In other words, our normal existence as human beings is an existence of tension between us and God.
We know from the rest of the Bible that this is not how God created the world to be. In the beginning, God created everything good. He created men and women to live in perfect relationship with him, with each other, and with all of creation. And this is how it was....until human beings decided that knowing the God who made them, loved them, and gave every good gift to them was not enough for them. They wanted to be the gods of their own lives. At that moment God’s good world became a broken world. Every person born since has been born into a broken world where we are disconnected from God. One of the many consequences of this broken relationship with God is death. Death exists, quite simply, because sin exists. This is why people of every type and every culture grieve in the face of death. We grieve in the face of death because death is a symptom of our broken relationship with God. Death is a reminder that the world is not how God created it to be.
It is appropriate to grieve in the face of death because God grieves in the face of death. God grieves over the fact that our sin has separated us from him and destroyed the paradise that he made for us. But it is not appropriate for our grief to exist for its own sake. Our grief ought to give us a hunger for reconciliation, a craving for all that has been destroyed to be made right.
@@It´s appropriate to grieve in the face of death because God grieves in the face of death@@
Why We Can Grieve with Hope
If you’ve lived long enough, you know that you are powerless to fix it yourself. You have watched as people stronger than you, people better than you, have fought against the brokenness of this world, fought against death, and have lost. But the situation is not hopeless. While you and I can do nothing to get back to a right relationship with God, he has done everything that needs to be done to restore that relationship for us. In the words of the Scripture we just read, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” Jesus came into the world to reconcile us to God. He came to unite us in right relationship with God. He came to restore the good and perfect creation that was lost. He did this in three ways:
First, he lived a life of perfect obedience and worship to God. He lived this life in your place making his perfect obedience count before God as your perfect obedience, so that you can stand before God without even a hint of shame.
Second, he died a terrible death under God’s judgment. Though he was perfectly innocent in every way, he willfully took your sin as if it were his own and then lovingly absorbed every drop of punishment that belongs on you, upon himself, so that you can stand before God without even a hint of guilt.
Third, three days later Jesus rose from the dead dealing the death-blow to death. His resurrection is the promise of your resurrection and the guarantee that he will bring you to be with him in the presence of God forever so that you never have to fear death again.
Speaking of Jesus, the Scripture we just read concludes with these words: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” What a trade that is! That Jesus takes our punishment and gives us his reward; that Jesus takes our death and gives us his resurrected life; that Jesus takes our curse and gives us his blessedness; that Jesus takes our sin and gives us his righteousness; that Jesus takes our filth and gives us his cleanliness; that Jesus takes our suffering and gives us his joy; that Jesus takes our beef with God and gives us his peace with God. And how do we obtain it? It’s clear that we must do something to obtain it because the Scripture says, “We implore you: be reconciled to God.” It won’t just come to you. So how do you obtain it? Not by trusting in anything you do, but by turning your trust and your faith to Jesus and all he has done. He has done everything that needs to be done to reconcile us to God. All you have to do is truly believe.
How Your Loved Ones Can Grieve with Hope
As we grieve our loved ones' deaths, we are reminded that it is only a matter of time before your loved ones will be grieving your death. But they don’t have to grieve without hope. If you live the remaining days of your life with faith in Jesus Christ, they can grieve knowing that you have been reconciled to God and that death did nothing more than usher you into his presence, where you will live in absolute joy until the day they meet you there.
Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or facebook.
image credit to flickr user Guillaume Delebarre: https://flic.kr/p/rwSq1o