Love overcomes evil by doing good, and one of the marks of genuine love is that it is generous. Paul spells out what this looks like in Romans 12:9-21: Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not...
Losing my first daughter in this life was categorically different than losing the era of my second daughter’s precious newborn days. With the latter, sorrow lingered for weeks and tears lasted for days. With the former, tears remained for months—and they still come, sometimes unexpectedly.
Some varieties of grieving are more life-altering than others—what was lost differs. But I experienced a string of similarity connecting these experiences: a familiar ache has accompanied both, yes.
But further, as God is at the core of my heart, I am able to grieve with a full one.
Remembrance of Goodness Because of God
“Remember the wondrous works that he has done” (Psalm 105:5)
While we cannot return to the past, it can enrich our lives right now through remembering. We remember the good gifts we have received and that is a way to consider the moving hand of God in our lives.
I have known God’s gracious provision. In remembering, I acknowledge the Lord who gave—who sacrificed so that I can be alive on this earth and the new one to come. Who is present to bestow all that I enjoy and have enjoyed. And, who holds the changing world together by his changeless might.
Grieving often effuses into artful acts of remembrance to honor past works of God’s kindness. Because these acts are not what hold the meaning of the gift, they need not be emotionally confused with the good gifts themselves or the God who gave. Were all acts of remembrance destroyed—all letters, pictures, mementos, non-profit organizations, donations, books, blog posts—the original gifts are untouched.
From the Creator stems the value of every life, gift, and season. And tied to his eternality, the value of what has honored him in this life already endures into the next.
Lamenting to God When Others Cannot Understand
“You must follow me.” (John 21:22)
For those who are not gifted in empathy and who also do not share the experience of a similar loss, entering into the particulars of another’s grieving can be a tremendous challenge. Not all experience the same areas of sorrow; not all have been given the specific comfort of God so that they can comfort me in mine (John 21:21-22; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
In short, those who grieve do not always feel understood by others—it’s an expectation not often realistic of mere people.
But even God might feel distant. Even so, we as his children are infinitely more familiar to him than he is to us. I remember with love what I no longer have, and perhaps you do too. Your home country, your earliest season of motherhood, your work prior to spending days wonderfully at home with your children that was fulfilling in a different sense, or another beloved person or part of your life that is not with you now.
You cannot now literally see what you have lost, but you can recall it—and neither do we see God. So conflating the two experiences, especially when sorrowing, can be tempting. He calls us to mind, us whom he does see and for whom he has sacrificed to bring near (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25)—how we might regard him differs so greatly from how he regards us.
God knows my sorrow (Matthew 26:36-46)—and not only my sorrow. He knows the very course of my life. Theoretically, should any unabating desire outside of God’s plans for me be presently fulfilled this moment, what would I ultimately gain? Without Christ, all is loss (Philippians 3:7-8). Even with tears of sorrow, I desire God’s plan for my life. I want my life to produce the glory he has ordained from my brief days on this ground.
Instead of letting silent dreams fester within me, I have found that grieving my pains before God—lamenting them before the one who understands my life’s trajectory perfectly—allows me to receive the sweet answer of his sovereignty. Lament before this kind of God can introduce to my spirit a holy, more unreserved embrace of my past tears and my veiled future that both promise his glory, as I follow his ways.
So, I have not merely told others my sorrows, and I have not merely let pain pile when others could not fully relate. I have told my sorrows to the Lord who superintends all, and says to me through his word—in all of his divinity after rising from his own cross—“follow me.”
What Is Behind Invigorates Joy for What Is Ahead
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Memories can be overpowering, yet peace in going forward without what has been lost can be found when what’s ahead in my heavenly country becomes more greatly desired than even the sweetness of preceding days (Hebrews 11:16).
Accompanying grief is the possibility to sense more of the eternal joy to come; the vapid character of earthly life magnifies an illustrious future. And along the way to our home, alongside sorrow, we do receive gifts—like more little snippets of what’s to come, if we attend to them.
When God returns, may I only thank him for the gifts he gave, for the sovereign plan he could devise to graciously bring me into all goodness, for the way he beckoned me to follow his ways through the trajectory he has foreseen for me from all eternity, and for all of the joys he planted here that are actually the mere inaugural seeds.