Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hope in the Face of Grief

…We do not want you
 to be ignorant
about those who fall asleep,
 or to grieve
 like the rest of men,
 who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13

Three years ago, my baby sister closed her eyes to the pain of earth and woke up to see the glories of heaven. The cares of this world fell like shackles unlocked and released from a prisoner’s leg. The momentary sting of death delivered her into the arms of Jesus. Since then I have faced the loss of a nephew, my brother, an aunt, a cousin and a precious sister-in-law. Some losses were sudden and unexpected; others came after long battles with poor health.

I have learned well many lessons taught by loss. In the days following the death of my sister, grief dragged me into a pit of depression; giving me no opportunity to breathe without pain as unexpected tears marked a path from swollen eyes to my chin. Darkness hung over my heart trying to convince me I would never again see light. But slowly, shafts of light permeated the darkness and bad days gave way to okay days and finally good days.

You probably have your own such story to tell. Times of unbearable loss. Times when the darkness of grief swallowed you in its pit. Times when well-meaning words of comfort from friends rang hollow like an iron bell in an empty room. You may right now be grieving; wondering if the pain will ever end. Struggling to get out of bed. Laboring to place one foot in front of the other. There is hope.

There are many kinds of loss that can bring about grief, and while death is the focus of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians, the pain and grief caused by other losses can prove to be as debilitating as the grief of death. Loss of a friendship, financial security, physical ability, good health, a relationship breakup, etc. may cause symptoms of fear, anxiety, depression, or sleeplessness. There is hope.

I can tell you from personal experience that hope is in the Name of Jesus. During the darkest hours of my depression, I did not read the Bible; I did not pray and ask God to deliver me. I could not. You may now find yourself or a loved one in that place. But God caused His Holy Spirit to well up inside me like a spring of living water, and I began to whisper the Name of Jesus. Step one, whisper Jesus. Step two, whisper Jesus. Step three, whisper Jesus; until finally God’s undeserved, unmerited, unearned, favor—grace—became a ladder of freedom from the bottom of the pit.

The Apostle Paul tells us we should not grieve like those who have no hope; those without Christ. Why? Because the resurrection of Christ brings hope. How do we have hope in times of distress? Romans 15:13 explains, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Unlike our English word for hope which allows for some uncertainty, the Biblical hope as found in Ephesians 1:18 allows us to know that in Christ we have complete assurance of indisputable, unequivocal, certain victory through God. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…”

So, whatever your circumstance today, whatever has caused your grief, your pain, depression, anxiety, or hopelessness, remember that you do not need to grieve as those who have no hope. If you are overwhelmed and without the energy needed to pick up your Bible, whisper Jesus. If you find it impossible to voice a prayer, whisper Jesus. If you are struggling to put one foot in front of the other, whisper Jesus. He will come. See God in His Glory, His Majesty, His Power, His Love, and His Grace.

Trust Christ, and do not grieve as those who have no hope.

© Joyce Powell

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