When You Can’t Escape Sadness {Grief and the Image of God}

Anyone who has experienced grief will tell you that the impact upon the heart always comes a shock. It is always bigger and heavier than you expect. Grief has such a way of catching us off guard.

Sometimes it is so strong and so unrelenting we think there must be something wrong with us. Maybe it was all those years of being told that only the weak or unstable cry.

We expect grief in the face of death. But what about when loss comes in other forms? Like when a relationship dies, or lies prevail, or perpetrators of harm are defended, or hearts turn cold? What about when a loved persists in behavior hurtful to themselves and others? Or when our most unbelievable nightmare is our harsh reality?

When you find yourself heavy-hearted, sleepless, and frustrated by your own powerlessness to change things, it seems that grief is nothing but a cruel tormenter. It lies and tells you the losses are your fault; you failed.

What can help in times like this when you are facing unexpected and persistent disappointment and grief?

1. Resist the temptation to dwell on what you didn’t do or think you should have done. Self-focus never leads us anywhere good. Instead, recognize the places where you have been assured of God’s sovereignty. Did all the doors of opportunity close? Then thank him for his leading. Did all attempts fail? Then thank him that his ways are better and his wisdom exceeds our loftiest of thoughts. Does all seem lost? Remind yourself that the disciples thought the same thing on the day before the resurrection.  Whatever disappointment you are facing came about with Christ still on the throne; despite how differently you think his rule should look. Thank him for the opportunity to see him rise and reign in your thoughts, and feelings, and relationships. Someday, He will make all things new and right. With the Apostle Paul we can confidently proclaim that we do not grieve as those who do not have hope (I Thess. 4:13).

2. Resist the temptation to think that you are weak or flawed because you are experiencing grief. Instead, consider your God, in whose image you are created. He too experiences grief (Genesis 6:6; Psalm 78:40; Isaiah 63:10; Matthew 26:38). Sometimes our sadness is our sharing in the heart of God for a situation. He knows and sees all and is grieved too when things are not what they should be. To grieve when wrongs are committed and when the right way loses to the wrong way shows how the heart of God is growing in you. He neither celebrates wrongs nor overlooks the requirements of righteousness. When your heart is heavy with the reality of our fallen-ness, can you think God for his work in your life? Will you pause and thank him that he is growing in you a passion for holiness, as well as compassion for those who withhold it?

Have you ever had a good cry with someone? There’s vulnerability in this that bonds us with another’s loss. Sharing honest tears with another is a profound intimacy. There are times when we can’t seem to escape the sadness of a situation–and maybe we aren’t supposed to; maybe what God wants us to do is to lean into the sadness and agree with him that indeed it is heartbreaking. When grief tells you God failed you, listen carefully for the cry of His heart. It is a reminder that he has been working in you, conforming you to his image and he is inviting you to come and share a good cry with Him. 

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