Christian grief always has hope buried deep inside it. The reason for this is that a Christian is waiting for the returning King, and the King loves him and knows him by name. Earth, spoiled as she is, is His countryside, and He rules her, and He is coming to throw out all the monsters and tyrants, chief among them Satan and death.
So it isn’t that a Christian’s grief feels any less like grief. It’s that it feels less like despair. Martha wept fiercely not too far from the corpse of her brother Lazarus, and she did this while telling Jesus that she knew her brother would be raised to eternal life on the last day. Martha was certain the best was yet to come for her brother, and yet she was still heartbroken that she wouldn’t see him (or so she thought) there in Bethany, there in their home again for Passover dinner. Her sadness was intense, piercing. It drove her to Jesus’ arm in passionate mourning. Her sadness was great. But it wasn’t bleak.
And of course Jesus grieved with her.
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.’ Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.
From John 11
A Christian has the freedom to grieve like Jesus.
For the Christian, hope and heartbreak aren’t like summer and winter. You don’t make it to the one after bearing up under the long discomfort of the other. No, for the one who knows the Holy Spirit hope and heartbreak are like seed and soil. The one was always there, living and sprouting and taking strong root, but it was just under the surface, just beneath the blanket of the ground.
There’s no two ways about it: Grief has been spun into this story. God has allowed it. Our fleshly father Adam and our mother his beloved Eve trusted the whispered lies of Satan, and they waved death and pain and groaning right up onto the front porch and offered them sweet tea. Death was invited in to God’s astonishingly good world. And Heaven grieved.
And then right there in Eden He told the Deciever that a Son of the woman would crush his head, though the crushing would bruise Him. And so God the Son was bruised for us by God the Father, tortured and killed in shame for sin on a Jerusalem hill. And Heaven grieved.
No two ways about it. Grief is here in the house with us.
But its seat at the table is not permanent.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’
From Revelation 21
Bear with some poetry for a moment.
Daylight will chase down this dusk, because the Son is returning. And when He arrives again, and sunlight spills over the hills and puts every shadow to flight, grief’s evening is over. God Himsef will be His people’s light, strong and bright enough to make this burning star named Sol above our heads seem to memory’s eyes to be a halfhearted firefly. And all our old tears will find their place in a song of praise to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And the death’s last echoes will be like those of a drunken man falling down stairs. All its power sapped, all its sting left hollow by the glory and might of God.
Grief is an intense thing. I know. But it’s also a temporary one.
Jesus is coming.
And I’ve never been much of a dancer, but if I’m given the chance I’d love to slow dance on death’s grave to Amazing Grace.
Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’
From John 11
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.
From Revelation 21