Dear Downhearted,

You’re experiencing grief in this season. The holidays can make this experience more poignant. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, maybe this is the first Christmas season you have gone through without them. However you’re experiencing it, grief is a complex process.

In light of that, I do not want to take a deep dive, but rather I want to share a passage of scripture with you to give you hope in your grief.

John 11:32–36 (ESV)

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 

Here is a very simple observation about a complex emotion: God grieves.

This is a mysterious reality because God never changes (Mal 3:6). Whatever it means for God to “never change”, it clearly does not mean that he has no emotion! In this short passage, we see Jesus deeply moved by the loss of a loved one. God weeps.

What does it mean that God grieves? Here are a few things, and I hope they encourage you.

First, grief is good.

We tend to think of hard emotions like grief as “bad” emotions, but when God grieves, like everything else he does, it is good. It can only be good. This means grief does not have its ultimate source in sin, but in the very character of God.

Second, grief is purposeful.

Unlike us, God knows everything that is going to happen. The death of Lazarus did not catch Jesus by surprise! He chose to grieve, I believe, because grief is a rich expression of love. Grief honors the beloved by mourning their death. The greater the love, the greater the grief. To grieve someone who has passed, is to continue expressing your love for them.

Third, grief will be redeemed.

Grief is an expression of loss. It sometimes makes me wonder though, “when has God ever experienced loss?” I can only think of the death of Jesus on the cross. At the cross, God the Father counted the sins of the world against his Son Jesus, and turned his face away from his Son. Jesus cries out, piercing the air, quoting a Psalm of lament “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

You and I can’t fathom the sheer oceanic depth of love God the Father has for his son Jesus. But I can only imagine in that moment when he turned away, that the Father’s heart was also stricken with great grief at the death of his only Son. 

Because Jesus died, God no longer responds to his children’s sin with anger. Rather, His Spirit grieves. God’s grief is wrapped up in the death of his son. Yet, the Father, Son and Spirit know death is not the final chapter of the story.

I encourage you to pull out your Bible and turn to John 11 and read the rest of this particular story of Jesus. He goes on to raise Lazarus from the dead! This is no small hint at a future death and resurrection that is to come – Jesus’ own death would be followed by his triumphant resurrection on the third day. Death stings now! But the day is coming when there will be no more sting. Christ will return, and all sorrow and death will be undone.

As you grieve, may you remember God’s grief and be comforted. If you know Jesus, a day is coming when you too will experience resurrection life, and your grief will be turned to glory. 

Grieving with you,