The Bible Answers to Grief

By John Thiel, mp3

Scripture reading: Isaiah 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

What is actually the meaning of grieving? What is it in all reality? Grieving is an experience, a sense of abject depravity of comfort and consolation. Grieving is when you can’t be comforted; you are overwhelmed with a terrible sense of loss, of darkness that wants to envelop us, to such a degree that there is apparently no answer; and we have to console ourselves, which is so hard to do. The times when grieving takes its toll is when someone has been removed by death from our fellowship; when there is a divorce, or a separation of someone whom we love; or when some object has been removed from us that we’ve depended upon; or even when some internal idea that has been an ideal in my life and has motivated me to live, is suddenly shattered – it fills you with grief; or when something that has supported my life and has made my life worth living, has been eradicated, and there is nothing left.

David and Jonathan

There are experiences that are given in the word of God by which we can see illustrations of this kind of grief. There was a very deep relationship between David and Jonathan, and the hope of being able to relate together for the rest of their life was suddenly shattered when Jonathan and his father, king Saul, were killed in battle. These are the words of grief that David expressed:

2 Samuel 1:17 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: … 23 Saul and Jonathan [were] lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 24 Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with [other] delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. 25 How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, [thou wast] slain in thine high places. 26 I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. 27 How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

David was grieving; he was lamenting. He was describing the kind of loss that he was experiencing. This is grief.


Another grief is illustrated in the experience of Elijah. Elijah came to a point where he discovered that what he was relying upon seemed shattered. He was here running for his life from queen Jezebel; he had just had such a wonderful high experience on mount Carmel, when the fire came down from heaven to consume the sacrifice; he slew all the prophets of Baal in a victorious power against evil. But now he is running for his life:

1 Kings 19:4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I [am] not better than my fathers.

So overwhelmed was he with the grief of apparent shattered anticipations, and he saw himself no better than those whom he had seen failing the Lord, and he just had no desire for life. He was grieving, with no sense of comfort or consolation.

The Disciples

The disciples were in a similar bereft state when everything they had hoped for in Jesus was shattered before their eyes; and their lament, as they were walking on the road to Emmaus, is an expression of grief:

Luke 24:21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel:

Jesus had died, and they had trusted that He would redeem Israel from the Roman captivity. Everything they had laid their weight upon was just removed.

Luke 24:21 …and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.

“It’s the third day now, and we are all just absolutely grief-stricken. Everything that we have depended upon is shattered.”

It was a similar story in 1844. Can you imagine the experience of the forefathers of Adventism? They expected Jesus to come! And when the day passed, nothing happened. They had left their crops in the fields, they had really believed that this was it, and now, nothing happened. Grief.

Sr. White

There was an occasion in the life of Sr. White when her dear husband passed away.

It is sometimes hard for me to preserve a cheerful countenance when my heart is rent with anguish. But I would not permit my sorrow to cast a gloom upon all around me. Seasons of affliction and bereavement are often rendered more sorrowful and distressing than they should be, because it is customary to give ourselves up to mourning without restraint. By the help of Jesus, I determined to shun this evil; {2SM 267.4}

What was the evil? To follow the custom of giving myself over to mourning.

…but my resolution has been severely tested. {Ibid.}

She wanted to be strong, but her resolution was severely tested.

My husband’s death was a heavy blow to me, more keenly felt because so sudden. As I saw the seal of death upon his countenance, my feelings were almost insupportable. {Ibid.}

This is what grief is: feelings that are insupportable.

I longed to cry out in my anguish. But I knew that this could not save the life of my loved one, and I felt that it would be unchristian to give myself up to sorrow. I sought help and comfort from above, and the promises of God were verified to me. The Lord’s hand sustained me. {Ibid.}

There was a description of grief. What was it? A blow that struck her and gave her feelings that were completely insupportable. No comfort, no consolation was in that grieving. But she wanted to be strong. And we want to be strong, we want to understand how to cope with those kinds of grieving sensations.

The Supreme Example of Grief

Here Jesus made His way to the garden of Gethsemane,

Matthew 26:37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

The soul of Jesus was so sorrowful that it was a death-experience for Him, a sorrow even unto death. He could not see through the portals of the tomb; there was no future for Him; it was horrible. Not only was there the sense of death, but there was the sense of the guilt of the world that was being laid upon Him, so that He was overwhelmed with total depravity of comfort and consolation. We read of His cry when, at the cross, it came to its climax:

Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

An anguish of soul that was so deep that He upon whom He had relied all the way through His life suddenly appeared to be gone for good. He cries out, “You whom my life depends upon, You have forsaken me! Why?” His heart was so broken with grief that,

John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

It is finished. There, in the experience of Jesus, was a grief that was supreme. All other griefs cannot measure up with this. The heart of Jesus was torn; He saw no consolation.

As the Son of God bowed in the attitude of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the agony of His spirit forced from His pores sweat like great drops of blood. {AG 169.2}

Have you ever had such grief that you would perspire the serum of your blood? The pressure was enormous.

It was here that the horror of great darkness surrounded Him. The sins of the world were upon Him. He was suffering in man’s stead as a transgressor of His Father’s law. {Ibid.}

What was He suffering? As a transgressor.

Here was the scene of temptation. The divine light of God was receding from His vision, and He was passing into the hands of the powers of darkness. In His soul anguish He lay prostrate on the cold earth. He was realizing His Father’s frown. He had taken the cup of suffering from the lips of guilty man, and proposed to drink it Himself, and in its place give to man the cup of blessing. The wrath that would have fallen upon man was now falling upon Christ. It was here that the mysterious cup trembled in His hand. {Ibid.}

We can have but faint conceptions of the inexpressible anguish of God’s dear Son in Gethsemane, as He realized His separation from His Father in consequence of bearing man’s sin. He became sin for the fallen race. The sense of the withdrawal of His Father’s love pressed from His anguished soul these mournful words: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). . . . {AG 169.4}

The divine Son of God was fainting, dying. … Could mortals have viewed the amazement and the sorrow of the angelic host as they watched in silent grief the Father separating His beams of light, love, and glory from the beloved Son of His bosom, they would better understand how offensive sin is in His sight. {AG 169.5}

If we could only contemplate this grief, we would see there is a grief that is greater than any other human grief. He actually appeals to our meditation:

Lamentations 1:12 [Is it] nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted [me] in the day of his fierce anger. 13 From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate [and] faint all the day. 14 The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, [and] come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into [their] hands, [from whom] I am not able to rise up.

Can you imagine the amazing, overwhelming anguish that is here described? He upon whom Jesus had leant was withdrawing His rays of light, and the sins of the whole world were woven into His senses. As I watch death coming upon people, which I have done time and time in the past, and especially again last night, the sense of death coming upon us is a horrifying experience. But Jesus’ sense of death was of such a nature that we cannot even fully comprehend because of the answer we are here receiving from the word of God, but we can appreciate that this is a dying experience. Jesus was so overwhelmed by grief that His heart ruptured. The enormity of this is here expressed:

Jeremiah 15:18 Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, [which] refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, [and as] waters [that] fail?

Perpetual pain, nothing to relieve it. A wound that is incurable, that refuses to be healed. It’s overwhelming; it really takes the life out of you. Hopelessness. This kind of grieving that you can identify with when you become overwhelmed because there is nothing left, no comfort left, when that strikes, and it is my prayer that, as we go through this subject, when it strikes us, we will remember that what I am going through has been cited for us in the Scriptures. Now we need to know how to get the remedy of this. Is there a Bible answer to this kind of grieving? What is the remedy for grieving? for this shattering loss of everything that has made life worth living? Jesus’ life was made worth living because He knew that He was in tune with His Father; and now, this that made His life worth living on earth, is suddenly completely shattered.

The Remedy for Grief

The answer to such a question, “Is there a remedy?” is found in the words of Jesus:

John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.

Now something comes to our understanding. Life that comes to us normally is insufficient. Jesus came to give us life more abundantly when the thief cometh to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. What Jesus met was the baleful effect of the enemy that came to destroy life, and that separated us from God. We have been separated from God, we have no future; but Jesus came, and He was the ladder that was set right down here with us, and He said, Alright, what is your future that has been shattered, I am now taking that, and I am meeting the doleful experience of your hopelessness so that you might have life, and that more abundantly. This is an amazing answer from Jesus. He gives us something to think about when we become overwhelmed by grief.

In Hebrews 12, the answer streams across to us as to what Jesus actually meant when He said, I am come to give life, and that more abundantly.

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Doing what?

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Here we are brought face to face with Jesus suffering there, and the word of God tells us we are to look unto that, because He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. He came to the death of the cross, separated from God, filled with anguish and utter grief, and yet He endured all that, despising its shame, and was brought out of it. Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners, in case we become weary when we are grief-stricken, and we faint. Jesus did the fainting. When we are ready to faint, by looking to Jesus we can conquer the grief.

It is one thing to say what I skipped from Selected Messages Book 2, p.267, “It is a sin to indulge, without restraint, in mourning and lamentation.” When someone is grieving and you say to them, Hey, it’s sinful for you to grieve; see what they say to you. But we don’t have to say to them, It’s sinful for you to grieve. Look, Jesus is grieving with you, and He came out of the grief. That is where our comfort comes from. We are admonished to look to Jesus for the relief of abject internal loss.

If in our ignorance we make missteps, the Saviour does not forsake us. {MH 249.1}

Have you ever made such a big misstep in your life that you feel, “This is it, sin is too great, I am lost”? The Saviour does not forsake us.

We need never feel that we are alone. Angels are our companions. The Comforter that Christ promised to send in His name abides with us. In the way that leads to the City of God there are no difficulties which those who trust in Him may not overcome. There are no dangers which they may not escape. There is not a sorrow, not a grievance, not a human weakness, for which He has not provided a remedy. {Ibid.}

Not a grievance that He has not provided a remedy for. He has. From this quote we have something to receive into our mind, an exercise that will eclipse the grief of loss. I look for some sort of reality that what Jesus has done misses out on something? No, nothing. So whatever it is, whether it is grief over my sinfulness and hopelessness, grief of having lost a loved one, whatever grief it is, there is a remedy!

It was through suffering that Jesus obtained the ministry of consolation. {MB 13.1}

The ministry of consolation. I need to be consoled. I have no consolation left. Jesus suffered that He may obtain the ministry of consolation.

In all the affliction of humanity He is afflicted; and “in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted.” Isaiah 63:9; Hebrews 2:18. In this ministry every soul that has entered into the fellowship of His sufferings is privileged to share. “As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5. The Lord has special grace for the mourner, and its power is to melt hearts, to win souls. His love opens a channel into the wounded and bruised soul, and becomes a healing balsam to those who sorrow. {Ibid.}

The sufferings of Christ were the supreme sufferings of grief, to the enth degree. There was nothing left that He did not experience. So as we behold and gaze upon the sufferings of Jesus, we find consolation there, because there is no grief that we have which He has not experienced. There is no need to abandon ourselves to discouragement and despair.

As we meditate on this, He says, “Is it nothing to you? Look at the grief that I am suffering. Is there any sorrow like unto this? As you study Me, there is no sorrow like this.” So all the sorrows that you have have been surmounted by His sorrow and His sufferings; it has engulfed everything, and more. So there is no need to abandon ourselves to total discouragement, or to abandon ourselves to grief, and despair.

That is what Sr. White decided to do, and then she found those wonderful answers that we are here looking at. Let us see what wonderful answers come streaming to us through the meditation of the sufferings of Christ. In continuation of what she described about her terrible suffering and the blow which she felt, and how she had to struggle to be cheerful, she says,

It is a sin to indulge, without restraint, in mourning and lamentation. By the grace of Christ, we may be composed and even cheerful under sore trial. {2SM 267.4}

Why? Because of what we have just contemplated in the sufferings of Christ. It provides for us a depth of consolation that prevents us from just abandoning ourselves to grief, so that the words of 1 Corinthians 7:30 come into focus, “That they that weep, be as though they wept not.” When I was weeping and I thought it was the end and it was overwhelming and hopeless, those words were whispered into my ear, Weeping as though you wept not. Of course! What am I abandoning myself here for?

Let us learn a lesson of courage and fortitude from the last interview of Christ with His apostles. They were about to be separated. Our Saviour was entering the bloodstained path which would lead Him to Calvary. Never was scene more trying than that through which He was soon to pass. The apostles had heard the words of Christ foretelling His sufferings and death, and their hearts were heavy with sorrow, their minds distracted with doubt and fear. Yet there were no loud outcries; there was no abandonment of grief. Those last solemn, momentous hours were spent by our Saviour in speaking words of comfort and assurance to His disciples, and then all united in a hymn of praise. . . . {2SM 268.1}

Let us learn a lesson of courage and fortitude. They were looking to the future, and after the disappointment, they were so shattered that Jesus had to come and encourage them. But as we reflect back at hindsight to what Jesus went through, we, today, have a beautiful description of Jesus in the Testimony of Jesus. This is Jesus speaking comfort to us. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” “I have come to show them the depths of despond, the depths of anguish and grief that I went through, so that they, when they meet it, can find My life, My comfort; so that they do not have to abandon themselves to abject grief.”

When it happens to us, we must remember, and the Holy Spirit is there to remind us. As I went through my grief, which was so overwhelming that I felt like Elijah, like I wanted to die – I felt like I was dying – then the memory of the Holy Spirit reminded me. He will remind us, and we must be willing to hear the reminder and respond to it, so that when the grief wants to overwhelm us, we will not sin by abandoning ourselves to it. You know, there are people that you try to comfort, and you give them a certain comfort that is really there, and they say, I don’t want to hear. They just abandon themselves to their grief. “Leave me alone to grieve.” The world says it, Don’t stop people from grieving. Well, we don’t have to grieve to such an extent that we have no meaningful answer to it. The remedy is in the beautiful atonement of Jesus. Jesus is worth living for! He will never abandon us. You will never need to succumb to grief, and be in a state of remaining in grief. As soon as the grief strikes, Jesus is there in the midst of it. By the sufferings that He went through we can identify with Him in His sufferings, because He identified with us in ours.

Whether it be the loss of a loved one, or whether it be the discovery of our sinfulness when we think that we have done it, and it is finished, and we have no hope; whatever it is, Jesus is right there in the midst of that, and we do not have to succumb to a state of hopeless depravity. May we not forget this beautiful answer that comes to us from the Bible.


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Posted on 26/08/2016, in Divine Service Sermons and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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