Tim is a native of State College, PA where he went to Elementary, High School and 4.5 years of college at Penn State. Tim majored in piano performance at Penn State and loves music, sports and technology. He met his wife Sarah at Penn State and they now make their home in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia. At Citylight he oversees the many leaders, teams and operations that represent the inner workings of Citylight.
You’re experiencing grief in this season. The holidays can make this experience more poignant. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, maybe this is the first Christmas season you have gone through without them. However you’re experiencing it, grief is a complex process.
In light of that, I do not want to take a deep dive, but rather I want to share a passage of scripture with you to give you hope in your grief.
John 11:32–36 (ESV)
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 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.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
Here is a very simple observation about a complex emotion: God grieves.
This is a mysterious reality because God never changes (Mal 3:6). Whatever it means for God to “never change”, it clearly does not mean that he has no emotion! In this short passage, we see Jesus deeply moved by the loss of a loved one. God weeps.
What does it mean that God grieves? Here are a few things, and I hope they encourage you.
First, grief is good.
We tend to think of hard emotions like grief as “bad” emotions, but when God grieves, like everything else he does, it is good. It can only be good. This means grief does not have its ultimate source in sin, but in the very character of God.
Second, grief is purposeful.
Unlike us, God knows everything that is going to happen. The death of Lazarus did not catch Jesus by surprise! He chose to grieve, I believe, because grief is a rich expression of love. Grief honors the beloved by mourning their death. The greater the love, the greater the grief. To grieve someone who has passed, is to continue expressing your love for them.
Third, grief will be redeemed.
Grief is an expression of loss. It sometimes makes me wonder though, “when has God ever experienced loss?” I can only think of the death of Jesus on the cross. At the cross, God the Father counted the sins of the world against his Son Jesus, and turned his face away from his Son. Jesus cries out, piercing the air, quoting a Psalm of lament “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
You and I can’t fathom the sheer oceanic depth of love God the Father has for his son Jesus. But I can only imagine in that moment when he turned away, that the Father’s heart was also stricken with great grief at the death of his only Son.
Because Jesus died, God no longer responds to his children’s sin with anger. Rather, His Spirit grieves. God’s grief is wrapped up in the death of his son. Yet, the Father, Son and Spirit know death is not the final chapter of the story.
I encourage you to pull out your Bible and turn to John 11 and read the rest of this particular story of Jesus. He goes on to raise Lazarus from the dead! This is no small hint at a future death and resurrection that is to come – Jesus’ own death would be followed by his triumphant resurrection on the third day. Death stings now! But the day is coming when there will be no more sting. Christ will return, and all sorrow and death will be undone.
As you grieve, may you remember God’s grief and be comforted. If you know Jesus, a day is coming when you too will experience resurrection life, and your grief will be turned to glory.
Grieving with you,
I’m thankful for Jesus.
I don’t mean to sound trite, or simplistic or self righteous. I want to pass along something simple God is teaching me this year.
In Colossians 1:12-14, Paul prays that the church would
“[give] thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Think of how grateful you are when you receive an extravagant gift. Or how grateful you are, although differently, when you deserve something terrible, but you are shown mercy.
Think again of the type of gratitude you feel when you arrive home after a long day of work. Or you’re starving and you sit down to a steak dinner. Or when the paycheck clears before the payment is called to account.
Or the kind of gratitude you felt when you saw your son or daughter for the first time. Or when a loved one sees you, knows you, and fully loves you. How do you thank someone who saved your life?
God is worthy of our whole lives and such expressions of gratitude please him. I’m not saying you can’t become more thankful through disciplines like keeping a gratitude journal; I’m saying that the most important thing is to stir your heart up to love for God and a knowledge of the gospel.
Yes, thank him for the little things – please! But don’t be a person who thanks him for the food on your plate and the money in your bank, but never for saving you from certain death!
Thank him for the sunshine, and the clouds, and the food on your table. But let those things point your heart to Jesus and find the welcome reminder – that all these small providences of God point to the crowning achievement – when he delivered you from Satan into the arms of your savior Jesus.
So when you’re thanking God for the beautiful fall leaves, it just so quickly moves to thanking him for Jesus. And when you smell the warm pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, it just moves to Jesus with so little effort. It’s like there’s this song of gratitude in our hearts already singing, and when the daily reminders of God’s presence and faithfulness come close to our hearts, that song is like a tuning fork that just picks up and starts to vibrate.
Remember that the Father saved you from certain death and delivered you to certain hope because of Jesus.
Happy Thanksgiving – we will get through this together.
The Ten Commandments divide into two parts. The first four commandments teach us how to relate to God and the final six teach us how to relate to one another. The fifth commandment, to honor father and mother, is unique. The fifth commandment is a bridge as parents both participate in the divine activity of creation and are the first neighbor many of us will ever know. Therefore, we are to honor them.