Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsThursday 19 Mar 2020Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 4 minutes
It’s inevitable that you and I will face at least one occasion of receiving bad news, probably the death of a family member—which is the most difficult news—or a close friend. It will happen sooner or later, and then we will be faced with the question: How will I handle my feelings of grief?
Will I be too upset? What will others think of me? Will I be able to handle my feelings? It may be a morbid question to ask, but it’s real nonetheless. Any time we lose something of value to us like our health, a job, a pet, or moving from one community to another—these can be times when we experience feelings of grief.
Preparing for the Storm
There was one night in Scotland, when the snow lay deep and the wind shrieked around a little house in which a good Presbyterian elder lay dying. His daughter brought the family Bible to his bedside. Father, do you want me to read a chapter to you?, she asked The godly Christian man was in so much pain that he could only let out a groan. She opened the book and began to read and then she heard him say, No, no, lassie, the storm’s up now; I thatched my house in the calm weather.
What did he mean? Simply, he had made preparations for his death a long time ago. He had left plenty of time to thatch the house before the storm came. If you’ve felt grief-stricken and your mind was whirling from life’s tragedies, the last thing you want to hear are theories and explanations—it is not the time for analysis. It is wise to thatch the house before the storm rises. In other words, prepare for the sad moment before it suddenly arrives.
I have a feeling that most people struggle to understand grief. How can I experience these feelings in healthy ways?—that’s one of life’s most important challenges. Too many people experience grief and, as a result, they turn away from friends and family, shunning all offers of help, and most tragically they turn from God.
You may know people yourself who have had their faith shipwrecked on the shores of grief and loss. They cannot get over blaming God for their misfortune and so they turn their backs on him. Or you may know of people who have come through horrendous grief and loss with a stronger faith and a deeper reliance on God. So, how does a Christian respond to grief?
A Christian Response to Grief
To try and answer that question, there’s no better story to read than the book of Job from the Old Testament. If you are not familiar with the book of Job, it begins by describing Job as the greatest man among all the people of the East (Job 1:3). The first verse in the book tells us that Job is great spiritually so that he is described there as blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
He has seven sons and three daughters, he has seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and a large number of servants. In every way here is a prosperous man. It isn’t long however before his life filled with prosperity is filled with deep trouble. First he is crippled by bankruptcy. He’s wiped out:
- all his oxen and donkeys are carried off by thieves
- all his sheep are burned up and
- all his camels are stolen.
Our faith is tested during a time of grief.
That morning Job woke up one of the wealthiest men in the world, that night Job went to bed bankrupt. But, not only this but Job is crushed by bereavement. A tornado comes and strikes the house in which his children are eating and all ten of them in one instant are killed.
Then on top of all this, Job is covered with boils. He can’t sit down, he can’t stand up, he can’t even lie upon his bed. He tosses and turns and writhes in mortal agony. He loses his fortune, he has lost his family and now he loses his health. Job suffers great loss and as you read through the book you can see a man going through the process of grief.
I want to identify this for you so that one day, when you experience the tragedy of loss you will be able to say, this is normal, it’s okay to be going through this. That’s the thing about grief—when you are in the midst of it, you think you are out of your mind and that all that you are experiencing isn’t normal. But I want to reassure you that grief is a process which we all face and, if handled properly, can be healthy and helpful.
(Read Handling Times of Grief – Part 2)