Like many of you, I’ve known some grief in my life. When I was 20, my brother was murdered; I had five miscarriages; in the last five years I’ve lost my father-in-law, mother-in-law, and this summer, my mother. I felt close to all of them.

But I can say absolutely, truthfully, that God has healed the weight of all of those griefs. But it is also true that sometimes grief pushed me deeper, and endured longer, than was necessary.

I’m writing this series of blogs with great hope that something in them might ease your journey a little. God promises that after He comforts us, we’ll be able to pass that comfort on to others.

Here is the first thing I’ve learned: It really helps to be able to step back and understand grief.

My first few experiences of grief were bewildering and overwhelming. In the midst of one particular struggle, God really helped me. It was one of those God-moments I can still remember in detail so many years later.

One Sunday, as I sat in the pew of our little church, I looked at each family in turn. I remembered that one family had lost a child at birth, another had lost a mother through illness. Behind them sat the family whose father had died of cancer.

I learned an important lesson: Almost no one reaches middle age without some kind of tragedy or grief.

As teens and young adults we live in an invincibility bubble. It never occurs to us that something truly bad could happen to us and therefore that first deep grief can be shocking. We may ask, “Why me?” “Why did this happen?” “What does this say about God?”

As I sat in the pew, God answered the first question: Grief came to me because it comes to most everyone. However, as those families smiled and sang, I missed the other important lesson: Grief passes. You get through to the other side. You are happy. Life is good again.
Grief and loss are supposed to make you sad. (If they don’t, it may be a sign of an emotional barrier or difficulty.) But there is a difference between sadness and despair. Despair is sadness without hope.

The truth is that God longs to comfort those who mourn. In fact, Isaiah 61 tells us that over time, God can turn mourning into dancing, and even change the ashes of loss into something beautiful. We can come out the other side as oaks of righteousness.

There are practical things we can do to ease the passage from mourning to dancing. That will be the topic of the next blog.

“Blessed be the Lord who daily bears us up. God is our salvation.” Psalm 68:19 (RSV)