The book of Job is one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible and I often hear preachers using it at funerals as they try to console bereaved families. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken, blessed be the name of the Lord.” We end up blaming every tragedy on God. When you read further, Job actually confesses that “I uttered what I did not understand” (Job 42:3).
By Dr Doug Mamvura
Some of us preachers are guilty of intensifying the grief at funerals because we don’t fully understand the word of God.
Grief is an inescapable part of life. Recently a very close friend lost their mother and I was equally engulfed with grief. At times like that it is better to keep quiet than to start waffling things like, “Be strong” or “To whom did you wish this to happen?”. Instead of healing or comforting someone, such stupid and insensitive remarks are likely to hurt more an already hurting person.
Having said that, we can’t avoid all grief, but we can avoid all the destruction that grief can cause. While we react differently to our own grief, it is very important to realise that your situation isn’t unique. I believe this is very important. One of the devil’s most deceptive ploys is to make you think that no one else knows what you are going through. There are songs that have been written such as “Nobody knows the trouble I feel, nobody knows my sorrow”. That just isn’t true. When we refer to the scriptures we find (1 Corinthians 10:13) stating that “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience but it is common experience to us all.” (NLT).
This is very important to understand. If Satan can make you believe your situation is unique, then you automatically exempt yourself from all help that is available. Regardless of how others attempt to help, you remain beyond their reach because in your mind they haven’t experienced your loss and therefore can’t understand or help you. That isn’t true. I remember when I lost my father and was overwhelmed with grief, I had to call one of my friends who had recently lost his father and that really helped me deal with my own grief because he assisted me with how he handled his loss.
To truly heal and move beyond grief you need others. This is why the Bible encourages us to “mourn with those who are mourning”. Self-pity and every other destructive result of grief can only function in isolation. When we fellowship with others, the negative effects of grief normally will begin to die although this may take time depending on individuals. If Satan can cut you off from others, then it is like a wolf separating a sheep from the flock, you are easy prey.
Apostle Peter spoke about the devil in 1 Peter 5: and said, “Stand firm against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” He was saying there is comfort in knowing that others are experiencing the same problems.
Those experiencing grief need to see that others have experienced similar things and have lived through it. Anyone who refuses the encouragement and hope that comes from observing others who have moved on with their lives will have a very hard time experiencing victory themselves.
Another very comforting thing to remember in a time of grief is that the situation is only temporary. One of my favourite phrases in the Bible is, “It came to pass.” That is why it came to pass. No tragedy is permanent. Even death is only a temporary separation.
This is exactly the logic the Apostle Paul used to comfort those who had lost someone they loved. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, he said “But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are sleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trump 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 so shall we ever be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
Death is not a permanent split for believers. It is just a long separation. We will be united with those who have died. Remembering this will bring comfort (1 Thessalonians 4:18) and can provide a lot of positive motivation. Putting all our tragedies into the perspective of eternity also minimises their impact on us. All tragedies will be totally forgotten in eternity as we experience the comfort of the Lord in full measure. Romans 8:18 says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Paul suffered more persecution than any of us ever have. It not only involved physical torment, but emotional pain that most of us can’t even imagine, yet he was able to call all his trouble just a “light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17). His affliction wasn’t light because it was less than ours, but he put it into a different perspective. He said his afflictions were light because they were “but for a moment”.
Probably the most important thing I minister to those experiencing grief is that God is not the source of their grief. I believe this is absolutely essential. Anyone who believes that God directly causes their grief or indirectly allows it to happen is headed for trouble. I know you may be shocked by this statement. Most people always believe that nothing happens without God’s approval. I often hear at funerals people saying “God has done His will.” It is like God has a big desk in heaven through which all orders have to originate from, or at least pass through there to get His stamp of approval. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lots of things happen that God has nothing to do with.
Let us look at 2 Peter 3:9. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” You can’t get it clearer than that. It is not God’s will for any to perish, but they do. Jesus even said that most would enter through the broad gate into destruction instead the narrow gate that leads to everlasting life (Matthew 7:13-14). This is directly against God’s will. It is not God who destines people to go to hell. Hell was made for Satan and his angels but men choose to go to hell. The Lord did everything to stop people from going to hell by sending His only begotten Son that whosoever would believe Him would not perish but have everlasting life. He also sent His Holy Spirit to convict us and draw us to Him but some of us still resist that call. He also sends His labourers across our paths. So any person who goes to hell, will have to climb over all these roadblocks that the Lord has put in their way. It is therefore not God allowing them to go to hell but their own choice.
Believing that God causes or allows things that bring us grief turns many people against the Lord. How can I love this God who has killed my father or my child? How can I love this God who has brought sickness in my family? The truth is that we live in a fallen world and God is a good God. He is not the one who causes pain and suffering in this world. One has to fully understand the true nature of God so they don’t use Him as a scapegoat for the challenges they face in life.
This is all a result of Christians incorrectly ascribing to God a sovereignty that makes Him responsible for everything that happens. That is not what the Bible teaches. In situations that cause grief, it is very comforting to know that God is not the author of, nor the one who allows our tragedies. The Lord is not insensitively standing by and allowing us to suffer. He is touched by our feelings as we see in Hebrews 4:15 and has sent His Holy Spirit to comfort us in whatever trial may come (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).