To say that grief is a sensitive thing is an understatement. And so when people try to enter in with a few words it’s like touching an open wound. And often when people offer words to heal they can unintentionally poke painfully into our open wounds. So many of us are experts at analyzing those words, aren’t we? Why they weren’t helpful or how it was insensitive. The truth is people are often poor comforters (and it’s not just other people, it’s you and me too). Our reaction is to crawl into our shell chanting our theme song, “I am a rock, I am an island.”
Isn’t it interesting then that the Word commands the body of Christ to comfort each other? “May there be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1 Corinthians 12: 24b-26
Why? God-incarnate (Jesus!) knows from personal experience that people are pretty terrible at easing the pain. He was deserted in the garden, his disciples often missed the point and made their own needs the point. They promised faithfulness and deserted when He most needed comforters. He could have called down angels to minister to him as he approached the cross. But He didn’t.
Jesus was feeling the weight of his grief, it began to cover and weigh heavy on him. “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” John 13:1. Did you hear that? He didn’t withdraw himself because they couldn’t possibly understand. He didn’t hold himself aloof but instead He loved them. to the end. He bent down and washed the dirty dusty feet of the one who would soon betray him. He broke bread and fed His friends and again patiently taught the lessons our human hearts have such a hard time absorbing.
Jesus did not hoard his grief. He sets an example for me, for you who are hurting. Going into a solitary place is good. Laying your needs and confessing before the Father in private is necessary. But if we are believers, we have responsibility to the body to not hoard our grief. Do we grieve the body because we quickly take offense? Do we hold believers at an arm’s length, not willing to risk any more hurt?
We’re quick to isolate our hurts from the body of Christ. We don’t let people enter in–we so desperately don’t want people to slight us, make us hurt more or misunderstand our grief. Maybe it’s not just the wider body of believers. Maybe it’s your husband or your sister. Or that close friend you never call anymore because she just doesn’t “get it”. And the relationship withers and the gospel isn’t breathed and the ground get harder and colder between you.
And that’s where grief enters in and sets itself up as our idol. Do you see it? Rather than obeying God we set place our grief as the cross rather than putting our grief beneath the cross.
And this makes us whither. There is no redeeming power in our grief. There is only restoration and healing in bringing our grief to the cross, only relief in putting our hurting load into His hands. Consistently isolating ourselves from others and reminding people that they “don’t understand” doesn’t allow the body to function properly.
Jesus has a purpose for you being with the body you are with, trust Him with that. Let the Church comfort you. If they are terrible comforters, love them to the end. Tell them what it’s like, pray together, confess your doubts and fears, let them in. Give each other the gospel, tell it to each other, remind one another of the hope you have in Jesus. Let Jesus minister to you through the body of believers.
Who can tell the blessings we miss when we think becoming a “rock” or an “island” will ease our grief. I’ve fallen into this many times. The only remedy is fleeing to the Rock, Jesus Christ. Trust Him with your grief. Then you will be free to be in community with other believers, together letting the gospel breathe healing into your souls.
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