Grief and Joy

Brad Horton

man and woman sitting on sofa in a room

Grief is a part of human suffering. It’s the curse. Every man will endure it. Some will see great amounts of grief. Others, not so much. No one will escape it. To say this would seem I am a depressed pessimist, but I’m just being biblical. A Christian has a biblical view of grief. It comes mingled with joy. The world doesn’t have this, nor can it. Searching for peace in alcohol or some other mind altering effect, they look, but don’t find. Up until October of 2022, I could have said that grief and joy mixed together is something I couldn’t explain. I had spoken at many funerals, listened to grief-stricken friends over the years, but it was only when my mother died that I understood this.

When Jesus was being led away, He spoke to His disciples concerning their empty loss to come: “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy” (John 16:20). The words of Jesus comfort me. Only those who know redemptive, joyful, magnifying grace can understand that you can grieve, but that will be turned to joy.

Moments of grief will still grip you. At the same time, Psalm 34:1 affirms, “I will bless the Lord at all times.” “All” means “all” here. At times of grief, suffering, and trials as well as the times of happiness, bliss, and joy, we will bless the Lord. When Jesus told the disciples their grief would be turned into joy, that seems like an oxymoron. How? A Christians does not cement his hope in this world. We know death will come apart from the return of Jesus. We know our bodies will decay. We know we will depart from our loved ones. But a resurrected Savior has prepared for us a place: “For I go to prepare a place for you” ( John 14:2), “that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). We rest our hope in this truth—when we leave or our redeemed friends and family leave, they are with the Lord.

Even in this mountain of truth, the grief exists. How can I have joy now in the midst of grief? By believing firmly, more than ever before, the words of God are true. We have the eternal Word of God; we have eternal truth. His Word never runs out of hope or joy. In the midst of grief, the truth of God’s comfort, long suffering, love, and hope does not run out.

When we bury a loved one, we see the hideous work of sin fulfilled in death. We shouldn’t look to man or ourselves. We shouldn’t look to psychiatrists or motivational speakers. Many do turn to material means to fill the emptiness they feel. When I lost my mother, I felt empty, but it was filled with hope and truth of who God is. I began to see how He arranged events the last two years for my parents to move closer to us. They saw basketball games and attended events, dinners, and a lot of trips with us. When I grieved, my grief was turned to joy to see how God providentially ordered those events for us to be close to each other.

As I still have moments of grief, I am reminded of the sufficiency of God’s Word. 1 Thessalonians 4:17–18 says,

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Yes, there is hope and comfort in the coming of the Lord—there is hope and comfort in being with the Lord even before His coming. The Word of God only provides comfort. In trials, sufferings, death and despair, it’s the Word of God that is the foundation for our hope. In these times, I am reminded of Psalms 16:11: “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” In my NASB95 Bible, the description for Psalms 16:11 is, “The Lord the Psalmist’s Portion in Life and Deliverer in Death.” Herein is where I find the joy and grief mixed together in a way that only God can do. In the dying of our own life, or in the death of others, Your presence is joy beyond the realm of human understanding. Only in knowing I am redeemed and He is my Father can I have joy and hope in the time of grief. This is my hope. Grief will flare up, but it will always be replaced with hope and everlasting joy.

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