BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 3 of a BCC Grace & Truth blog series on Biblical Counseling and Grief. In addition to today’s post by Rick Thomas, in this series you will find posts by: Brad Hambrick—The Big Question of Grief, Sue Nicewander—Two Wings to Soar in Grief, Rick Thomas—There’s a Grief That Can’t Be Spoken, and Abe Meysenburg—Grief and the Gospel and A Gospel Guide through Grief.
“There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on. Empty chairs at empty tables … now my friends are dead and gone”—Marius, from Les Miserables
Grace Greater Than Grief
Carolyn’s son took his life. Like Marius in the Broadway play Les Miserables, there is a grief which cannot be spoken. There is a pain which goes on and on. Her son died leaving her standings at the end of the road, alone.
She cannot retreat to a better day, when there was life, family, and happiness. There is no future day—on this earth—where she can embrace her son. His death is like an ever-present boulder lodged in her heart.
Sometimes she feels like an amputee who is compelled to scratch her leg. She reaches down to scratch, only to be reminded she has no leg. Part of Carolyn died with her son.
Her mind tries to wrap itself around what happened. There are so many questions, but all the answers went with her son to his grave. She searches in vain for what cannot be fully answered.
It is in this seemingly impossible moment where I would want Carolyn to know how Christ and His grace are greater than all her grief.
She will come to understand this in time. In time, the grace of God will bring healing to the pain in her soul, but she will have to make a choice. She will have to choose to let it go—to let him go.
Grief can become a person’s way of keeping something alive. To move on is to acknowledge it’s really over. I’ve seen cases where the ones left behind feel a sense of guilt if they let the person go.
In their minds, to move on is to say it is over and they are not ready to take this step of faith. A person like Carolyn could talk herself into feeling guilty if she let it go. She was never prepared to say goodbye to her son and she refuses to say goodbye now.
Isn’t this why we put flowers on the graves of those we love? What are we doing? We are remembering. It is our way of staying connected to the dead. If they died of natural causes, it would be easier to let them go. We would grieve for a season and move on.
Suicide is another animal. They were not supposed to go this way and we were not prepared to let them go this way. Grief becomes a means to hold on to them.
How to Let Him Go
There are at least six things I would want to help a person like Carolyn to understand and experience—in this order:
1. Weep with those who weep.
Sometimes there is nothing more important to do but cry with a grieving person (Romans 12:15). Words can get in the way of certain sorrows.
There is a grief which cannot be spoken. Carolyn needs a friend to cry with her. She needs a friend to walk with her through the shadow of the valley of death.
2. Understand the dividing nature of sin.
She will have to come to terms with the nature of sin. She will not get all the answers to her questions and even if everything was thoroughly explained to her, it would not satisfy.
Her son chose to sin. It’s cold. It’s hard. It’s the only truth which explains what happened and why it happened. It would not serve her mind to go beyond what has been revealed. Her soul is torn. This is what sin does. Like a tornado ripping through a town, Carolyn has been ripped apart by the sin of another.
3. Guard her heart from sin.
She may be tempted to blame herself. She is not responsible for anyone’s sin, but her own. Her son chose to sin and he will have to stand before God for his actions. She will not stand before God for his actions.
If she has sinned against her son, she will need to rest in the cleansing promises of God. We confess our sin(s) to God and live in the freedom He offers us. We can do this because of the Gospel.
4. Celebrate what you had together.
Her son may be gone, but the memories are hers to celebrate. Carolyn will have to remember her son the right way. She can celebrate what she had, not what she wishes she had. If she does not do this, then her grief will eventually turn to bitterness and possible anger toward God.
5. Rest in the God of mystery.
There is a lot of mystery around some grief situations. Some questions will never be answered (Deuteronomy 29:29).
God does not reveal everything to us and He is not obligated to do this. One of the reasons He does not tell us everything is because He wants us to trust in Him rather than the facts of a situation. He is calling us to faith.
6. Believe God will wipe away your tears.
One of the most amazing things about the Word of God is the assurance we get from Him that all tears and sorrow will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4).
I have no idea how He is going to do this, but I believe Him. It has been this act of forward-looking which has helped me through my personal grief. When I look backward at some of the things which have happened, I can shake my head in maddening disbelief.
When I look forward, my heart begins to change. My faith receives a boost. It’s an amazing thing: God is going to make all things right. I do not completely understand this, but I choose to trust Him.
Join the Conversations
How could the six practical wisdom principles impact you are struggled with grief? How could they impact your ministry to another person struggling with grief?