"In Case of Grief"
It seems like most airplanes, factories, and other environments that are susceptible to dangerous, or grave crises have some form of clearly posted instructions that begin with "In case of emergency ". Usually these words follow with "pull string", "wash eyes with water", or "run around screaming with hands waving in the air" - ok, so I have never seen that last bit of instruction, but in some situations, it seems to be the only sensible thing to do. The emergency instructions are not so clearly posted for some of life's difficulties, but they are available for those who are humble and willing to look.
The book of I Peter was written to Christians who were suffering and laden down with grief. However, as every commentary notes, the suffering that is under consideration in this book is peculiar to Christians. It was written as aid to those who are suffering as Christians, not as human beings. Sickness, loss of employment, failed health, and loss of loved ones are forms of suffering that are common to all humans. The associated grief befalls Christian and non-Christian alike. Although the Bible contains help for those who are suffering persecution as a Christian, the Bible is not without advice and counsel regarding general human suffering, which seems all-consuming when one is in the throes of grief.
Sometimes we grieve so profoundly, we feel as if we could tear off this mortal raiment and fly back to our heavenly Father, sobbing, and seeking His comfort. Grief is the cry of an immortal soul, reaching and groping for help from the only One, Who can provide it. In Old Testament times, saints would literally rip and tear their clothes as evidence of their complete undoing. Shaken to their foundations, they could only call out to their Maker for protection (Genesis 37:33-35; II Samuel 1:11-12). From this we learn that grief is not wrong, even when it is manifested publicly. Our Lord and Savior was described as a "man of sorrows" and as one Who was well "acquainted with grief" ( Isaiah 53:3). Jesus visibly showed his grief on at least two occasions. As He was entering Jerusalem for the last time, He stood in a high place looking out over Jerusalem, weeping (Luke 19:41-44; see related Matthew 23:34-39). Although the people had rejected God, it did not change the fact that Jesus loved the people and sorrowed over their impending destruction. His love can also be seen after the death of his friend, Lazarus. As Jesus approached Lazarus' tomb and saw all the people weeping, the Scripture says that "He groaned in the spirit and was troubled" (John 11:33). Jesus grieved in sympathy with those who were grieving over the loss of Lazarus, but when Jesus approached the tomb Himself, He broke down and wept (John 11:35). The word here for wept means to weep openly and deeply. Those standing by commented on His evident love for Lazarus (John 11:36). Sometimes in grief, we also weep deeply. Sometimes other people witness our grief. Although we should not grieve to be seen of men (Matthew 6:1-8), those who truly grieve may find themselves in public places at the moment of crisis. Grief is not a sign of weakness, but it is a sign of understood loss. Those who do not grieve are those who have not lost.
Although grief is not a sign of faithlessness, we often feel the weakest at such moments of loss. Although we may feel ruined, we should remember that the One, Who once grieved at Lazarus tomb, now stands at the right hand of the Father, pleading for us (Romans 8:31-39). Does the heart, which was once moved at the suffering of Lazarus' friends and family, no longer feel the pain of His brethren? We can rest assured that He is still moved by our pain and pleads for help, in our stead, before the Creator of the whole universe (Hebrews 4:14-16). Not only do we have Jesus pleading for us, but we also have a amiable, heavenly Father, to whom Jesus pleads, Who wants to help us and provide the things that are good for us (Matthew 7:7-11).
Not only should we recognize that it is all right to grieve, and that God will sustain us through it, but we should also know that grief and suffering are not without benefit. Although such benefits were not the intended fruit of suffering, like many blessings God bestows, they are brought out of the ruin of evil schemes, which were never intended by their wicked designer to bless us. God is able to bring, and often does bring blessings out of curses (Numbers 24:10-13; Esther 9:1-25; Genesis 3:11-15). The times of grief are invaluable precipices of life on top of which, we can reflect upon our lives and choose to either soar to greater heights or tumble into the abyss. The wise man offered that the day of adversity should give us pause to consider (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14). Such consideration sometimes causes us to recognize failures in our own life, which may prompt us to return to the Lord (Psalm 119:67, 71). From all trials we can learn patience and wisdom (James 1:2-8). Such blessings are the flowers that bloom after the wildfire has pruned the prairie and prepared it for an even greater harvest (John 15:1-2). Paul said, "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 12:10). Although these words again relate to one suffering persecution as a Christian, it nevertheless indicates a general principle of strength that may come during moments of our greatest weakness, if we allow God to bless us. When we are weak, we see our true condition. We are reminded of how much we need the Lord, and if we are willing, these moments will drive us towards a closer relationship with God, wherein true and lasting strength lies.
Finally, remember these instructions: "In case of grief: pray, study, and hope". Although it is all right to grieve, we should not let the grief consume us as those who have no hope. We should look to the example of the "man of sorrows". In His most difficult hour, He was constantly bowed before the Lord's throne in prayer (Matthew 26:36-45; I Thessalonians 5:17). Although prayer brings us to a closer reliance upon the Father, it is not enough. We must also study the pages of God's Word, looking for His wisdom that will answer our prayers (Psalm 119:25-28; 49-56; 81-96 ). Although not all of our questions and requests may be immediately answered through study, diligent study will continue to provide answers, but more importantly, it will provide the promise of the eternal Judge, Who will one day make all things right. After learning of God's promises, we must learn to rest securely in hope. "Hope" should not be to us an empty word or cliché; neither should it be merely a pleasant word. Rather, "hope" should convey the very strength that carries Christians through grievous suffering ( Romans 8:18-25; Hebrews 6:10-20). Without hope, no one will overcome grief. This makes the difference as we stand upon the precipice.
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Only those who have this hope can obtain comfort from this promise. If you cannot find comfort, then will you not make your life right with the Lord? Only then will you find lasting hope and peace, even in the face of grief.
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