Second, grief teaches us that this world really is fallen. When our daily lives go on in a predictable way, we tend to forget how sinful and broken the world is. When life is comfortable and safe, we tend to forget the effects of the fall. We all too easily live as though this world isn't as bad as it is. But then grief steps in, and we are reminded that Adam and Eve really did sin and that the curse of death is a harsh reality (Gen 3:14–19). This means that we are right to grieve the death of loved ones (1 Thess. 4:13). We should weep and wail as the Israelites did. We ought to lament, bemoan, and hate the curse that has gripped our world. In fact, such grief should prompt us to pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).
Third, grief can reveal idols in our heart. When our lives are flipped upside down by loss, we discover just how much we cling to things other than God to meet our needs. As sinners, we often find our joy, security, peace, comfort, significance, and meaning in other people, in circumstances, and in created things rather than in our Creator (Rom. 1:25). When we lose a job, a relationship, a dream, or something else we hold dear, we find out just how much we depend on something other than God to give meaning and purpose to our life. Wandering in the wilderness of grief opens our eyes to see these idols, bringing us to confession and repentance. As we do so, we can replace those idols with a greater love for our Savior, the One who alone is our joy, hope, and peace.
Fourth, grief and loss offer a unique place where we are united with our Savior in His grief and sufferings. Isaiah tells us that Christ “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” (Isa. 53:3). Our Savior understands our grief because He lived in this broken world. He knew heartache, sorrow, loss, and grief. Knowing that our Savior understands what we are going through draws us closer to Him (Heb. 4:15). When we look at the tears our Savior wept in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36–46), we understand the depths of His love and grace for us.
C.H. Spurgeon once said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” The wilderness of grief is a stark, lonely place. But it can also be a wave that throws us against our Savior. The lessons we learn there are for our good and God’s glory, as the Spirit works in us, changing and transforming us into the likeness of Christ. Though the wilderness is a dark and scary place, we never journey there alone; Christ is with us. And having gone before us, He knows the way and will guide us through to the wilderness’ end.
Editor’s Note: This post was first published on February 1, 2018.