I’ve been there, friend. We’ve all heard that grief is like an ocean that ebbs and flows, and sometimes the waves feel so deep they might overtake you. But we know the Master of the seas.
I’ve known of Jesus pretty much since birth, and I met him personally at a young age. But I don’t think I knew him until I met grief. It was then that the Father’s love became incredibly real to me. My dad committed suicide when I was 14. My dad was my best friend, and even though I believe he’s with Jesus now, coping with that loss is still hard eight years later. Last year, two members of my church who were very close to me died suddenly in a fly-fishing accident. They were some of the godliest people I ever met, and their faith still inspires me. All their kids told me the last thing their parents said to them was that they would be back from their trip just in time for my wedding—they wouldn’t miss it for the world. I spent the weeks before my wedding mourning their loss.
It’s times like these that test our belief in God’s unwavering goodness and force us to confront the strength of our faith in the promise that his plans are better than ours. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” As difficult as it is to accept that his reasons for taking our loved ones will be unknown to us, he doesn’t leave us on our own to accept it and move on.
The prophecy of Jesus’ birth in Isaiah 9:6 refers to him as the “Prince of Peace.” Jesus freely gives peace to all those that ask of him. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). In my experience, his peace is most deeply felt when my heart is broken.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from grief is that God never wastes our pain. He can always use it for your good and his glory. But we have to let him. We were created to glorify and live for him, and his light shines the brightest through our brokenness.
David knew grief and brokenness well. In the Scriptures, we see him mourn his close friend Jonathan,1 his son that came from his adultery with Bathsheba,2 and the death of his son Amnon,3 just to name a few. From his experiences, David wrote many beautiful psalms. In Psalm 34:18, David writes, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 147:3 promises us that God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” God will not leave us to heal on our own.
Understanding God’s heart toward us helps to understand how he can work through our grief. Years ago, in a particularly broken season of my life where I could not find comfort, God showed me a certain passage of Scripture that brought me so much healing and joy. It reads:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.2 Corinthians 1:3-7
The word for “comfort” here is from the ancient Greek word paraklesis. The word carries with it the idea of strengthening, helping, and making strong. The same idea is behind the Latin word for “comfort,” fortis, which means “brave.”
Paul was abundantly familiar with suffering—as he describes in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28—and God’s comfort through it. What is so beautiful about this to me, is that Paul refers to God as “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” I’ve always found this especially beautiful and comforting of all the names used to describe God. He promises us that the Father will comfort us. But not only that—he says we will be able to comfort others in their affliction! That doesn’t sound super exciting when you’re hurting, but truly it is such a blessing to encourage others in their grief and suffering. In turn, it can bring you healing as well. This is the deep love we find through fellowship with other believers who we can lean on.
Paul’s description of God as “the Father of mercies” also reveals more of God’s heart to us. What flows from the deepest part of God’s heart? Mercies. Compassion is the Father’s very nature, it is his natural disposition toward us. After reading the Old Testament, some walk away feeling as though God delights in judgment. But Scripture reveals to us that what flows from him most naturally is love, not judgment. “The Father himself loves you,” John 16:27 tells us.
But what about the practical, day-to-day of getting through grief? It’s never an easy journey, but drawing closer to God is what sustains us. He is the Fountain of living water, after all.4 A daily fellowship of prayer and reading the Word more closely knits our heart with God’s and makes us more like him. As the Potter molds us like clay, our desires and thoughts become more like his. We see grief and loss differently than we did when we were carnally minded.
When you begin to feel the waves of grief rise around you again, I encourage you to talk to the Father immediately—ask him for his peace and presence, and to work through your pain to bring him glory. I also encourage further study into the Psalms (particularly chapters 30, 23, and 3) when you need some comfort—there is no shortage of it in the precious Word of God.
A Note from the Editor
While some of you may resonate with these stories and experiences, we understand that no two stories are the same. Our enemy is cunning and knows exactly which lies to whisper in our ear to pull us back into isolation and depression. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), and we encourage you to wield it as a sword against the lies of the enemy—but don’t do it alone. There are times when we are so weary from battling the lies of the enemy that we don’t have the strength to stand. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” Find friends and community who will speak God’s truth to you and over you. You are not alone in this fight.
In his infinite wisdom, God has chosen to work through ordinary people to accomplish his eternal purposes for our good and his glory. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I mentioned Ecclesiastes 4:9 earlier; the very next verse says, “Woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Too often, we wait until we have fallen and have no one to lift us up before we seek help. God can work through organizations and resources like these to provide you with the tools and friends you need to ensure you have help when you need it. And if we can pray with you and for you, we would love to do so. You can submit your prayer request here. If you need to speak with someone immediately, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
1 2 Samuel 1
2 2 Samuel 11
3 2 Samuel 13
4 John 4:13-14
Photo credit: Emily Brustoski
Hannah lives with her husband in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and is currently a senior at Western Kentucky University studying journalism and political science. She is set to graduate with honors in May 2022. She has a passion for sharing how God has worked in her life and how he can work in your life. She also has a passion for petting cats. You can follow her on Instagram at @mrshannahclaussen.