Getting through grief is extremely difficult. Many people make the mistake of trying to grieve alone. The fact is, God has not asked you to grieve alone. God wants to be there with you to help you and give you hope.
The Day Like No Other When Grief Came Unexpectedly
The phone call that changed everything came at 8 AM that cold March morning in 1991, setting up the rest of the day to be a day like no other. I let my parents take the call because I had just gone to bed after working the night shift. I gave the call no further thought.
I woke up around mid-afternoon, and my parents greeted me with solemnity as I stumbled into the living room where they were watching TV. I was told to sit down because they needed to tell me something. My sleep-fogged mind was jolted into alertness as they told me the reason for the early morning phone call.
Darla Lovell was a twenty-three-year-old journeyman missionary, who at that time was serving as a secretarial assistant to a missionary couple in Kampala, Uganda, Africa. Darla was on a two-year assignment and was working toward becoming a full missionary for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. She had been commissioned by First Baptist Church of Effingham, where we grew up together, for missionary service. At that time in history, Darla’s younger sister was my girlfriend, her older brother and I were good friends, and Darla’s mom and dad included me in all kinds of family events. I was integrated into their family.
The early morning phone call was from our pastor to inform my parents that Darla passed away from natural causes in her sleep in her apartment in Kampala. When she didn’t arrive for Sunday morning church in Kampala, the wife of the missionary couple went looking for her and made the sad discovery.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15 NIV)
Having No Idea What to Do When Faced with Grief
Upon hearing the news of Darla’s passing, I got ready as fast as I could and headed over to the Lovell family home. When I got there, I did not know what to say. What do you say? What words of comfort could I offer? In March of 1991, I was a whopping twenty-three years old. I wouldn’t turn twenty-four until August. I had zero experience and didn’t know much about what the Bible said regarding death; just a few select verses.
The funeral was planned, but it would take two weeks before she would be returned to the United States. The family was devastated. Through God’s intervention, however, the funeral was held the following Saturday, March 30th.
I was asked by the family to sing two songs for the funeral: “Pray for Me” by Michael W. Smith, and “Thank You” by Ray Boltz. I did not realize how difficult a task this would be. As I practiced, I couldn’t get through either song without losing it. I would break down sobbing one-half to three-quarters of the way through each song.
On the day of the funeral I arrived home from work and started going through a pre-planned routine. I laid down on the living room floor and told my mom to wake me up in forty-five minutes. When she woke me up, I started to get ready for the 10am funeral. I had to vocally warm up, and mentally start setting things in motion. There was one thing that I did for that day that I will never do again; I set aside my emotions. This was the only way I knew at the time to get through the two songs in the toughest setting I’ve ever had to sing in. Worst thing I could have done.
The Truth about Grief from the Bible
Grief is a natural process.
Grief has steps for a reason.
Jesus is familiar with grief. The prophet Isaiah wrote the following prophecy regarding Jesus and his time on this earth:
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV, emphasis mine)
I wasn’t going to allow myself to grieve. Not at that time. While the family and those who packed the sanctuary that day grieved for the loss of Darla, I went into “performance mode” so I could do my best to provide a flawless presentation of both songs. Again, this is an example of what not to do.
The prophet, Jeremiah, wrote what some of you reading this article may be feeling right now:
“My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me.” (Jeremiah 8:18 ESV)
The Psalmist, King David, said this:
“Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.” (Psalm 31:9 ESV)
As we close down the old year and head into the new, allow me to remind you that even in your grief, and it may be as deep as the grief the Lovell family experienced in 1991, God is right here in the middle of your grief.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 ESV)
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 ESV)
“Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NET)
In your grief do you have hope? In your sorrow, do you look for the light of the morning?
“One may experience sorrow during the night, but joy arrives in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b NET)
“Then you turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy.” (Psalm 30:11 NET)
“The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has chosen me. He has commissioned me to encourage the poor, to help the brokenhearted, to decree the release of captives, and the freeing of prisoners, to announce the year when the Lord will show his favor, the day when our God will seek vengeance, to console all who mourn, to strengthen those who mourn in Zion, by giving them a turban, instead of ashes, oil symbolizing joy, instead of mourning, a garment symbolizing praise, instead of discouragement. They will be called oaks of righteousness, trees planted by the Lord to reveal his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:1-3 NET)
The Bible Tells Us That You Are Not Alone in Your Grief
Dear reader, you are not alone in your grief as you stumble through the end of the year. Many people have had to grieve in many ways that we are unaccustomed to because of how we have had to reorient our lives. God has not asked you to grieve alone. He has not left you. He wants to help you and give you hope.
“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.” (Revelation 21:4 NET)
“In the same way God wanted to demonstrate more clearly to the heirs of the promise that his purpose was unchangeable, and so he intervened with an oath, so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf, since he became a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:17-20 NET)
God sees you; He hears you, and He loves you. Once again, even in the depths of your grief you are not alone.
The Lovell family had to come together and lean on this same faith and hope that only God provides. It was no easy process, and no, it wasn’t over very fast. The loss is still felt to this day. There is no way that a family loses a loved one so young, and not have this loss affect them for many years to come. The pain does not just go away. God does, however, provide comfort. He does love us, and the best hope that we have is that one day we will once again be reunited with those who have gone before us.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5 NET)
“Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55 NET)
It’s been a hard year for almost everyone. There is more despair and fear running rampant than I have seen in the entirety of my life. To quote Pastor Craig Groeschel, I’d rather be a “hope dealer.”
Here’s hope: God is still God. He still loves you. He is still in charge of this universe even when a pandemic disrupts our lives. Jesus is still Savior and Lord of All, King of Kings, and the most beautiful name to say in any situation that we face.
If you seek hope, you have come to the right place.
“For I am the Lord your God, the one who takes hold of your right hand, who says to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am helping you.’” (Isaiah 41:13 NET)
“Grace and peace to you from ‘he who is,’ and who was, and who is still to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ – the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood and has appointed us as a kingdom, as priests serving his God and Father – to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:4b-6 NET)
Getting Through Grief Prayer
“Jesus, right now I need your hope in the very center of my grief. I need your peace in the very center of my fear. I need you. I admit to you that I cannot handle any of this on my own. I admit that the fear, despair, grief, and sorrow is more than I can take physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Give to me from your abundance supply of Grace, Mercy, Love, Forgiveness, Hope, Joy, Tenderness, Kindness, Friendship, and Peace. I ask this in your holy name, the beautiful name of Jesus, amen.”
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Copyright David Shelton 2020. All rights reserved.