Grief is consuming. It’s a tough reality to grasp—a reality I’m almost nervous to write about. But we have a hope in our grief, and I want to expose that hope. In order to do that, though, I have to explain grief the only way I know how: my personal experience.
In late 2012, my mother was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. The doctors told us we had plenty of time to deal with it. It was small, mostly benign; we would keep an eye on it, and start medication immediately. 5 months later, on Mother’s Day, she was taken to the hospital in the early morning and by 6am she had died.
I had heard of grief before. I’d seen other people deal with it. But felt it? Lived it? When the doctor walked into the waiting room to drop the bomb—there’s no other way to describe it: it was hell. A part of me had been torn so suddenly from my heart. The void left by losing someone so close is consuming, particularly when it’s unexpected. My world had completely fallen away. Even surrounded by my family, our friends, and grief counselors at the hospital, I felt so void. Alone. She was gone.
And in the midst of the vast emptiness, the heartache, the terror, there was only one discernible thought in my head: “I need to get to church.”
I’d like to say it was my fortitude of character that led me to think that way, but I can only attribute it to the grace of God. With the remainder of the story, I’d like to highlight 3 of the things God has provided for us to deal with and experience grief in a way that will bring peace, comfort, and, ultimately, healing.
1) COMMUNITY. When I first walked into the church that fateful Mother’s Day I was greeted by my friend Noah. I had told him via text what had happened and he was there to meet me. Please listen to me here. If you take nothing else away from this, keep this one thing close to your heart: Please do not walk through grief alone. God has placed us on a planet with other people because we need other people to support us. The Bible says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14 ESV). For some of us, like in my case, it means bringing in our friends. For others, it means seeking professional counseling. There is no shame in that. If you feel like you have no one you can trust, look into GriefShare, a ministry The Life Church offers for those grieving.
In my experience, before I even knew it was happening, I had fifteen men from the church gathered around me. In the weeks to come, I had my small group who rallied around me and supported me. They were my safe place. I owe them more than they could know. But not only did they provide me with comfort, they provided me with the second of the three things I will share:
2) PRAYER. After I was met with the entourage of men, they took me to the back, laid hands on me, and prayed. Philippians 4:6 says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (NLT). There was so much I was worried about, so many things I couldn’t control, so much I didn’t know about what the future held. But when my friends prayed for me, I realized something: It was okay to feel the way I did. It was good to grieve. And the proper response to my grief was to pour my heart out to God. In that moment, I wept as I had never wept before, and was able to lay my heart before Jesus. I could feel God around me in that moment because I could be real with Him.
But once they were done, I was offered one last opportunity I am so happy I took. It’s the last of the three things I will highlight:
3) WORSHIP. When we exited the back room, it was time for me to return to my family. But Pastor Tony stopped me and asked, “Hey man, do you want to step into service and worship for a bit?” I hesitated, knowing my family was waiting, but I agreed. We stood in the auditorium, and the band sang, and, in spite of all my harrowing circumstances, I sang as well.
I could write a book on this moment alone. But neither you or I have the time for it, so I’ll close with this: the instant I lifted God up as the King of Heaven, to His proper place on the throne of my heart, my circumstances ceased to matter. God was still good. Jesus was still King. I suddenly became aware that my mother and I were actually, in that moment, in the same place: the presence of God. She was in heaven, worshiping at the feet of Jesus. I was on earth doing the same. The power of worship invited the Holy Spirit to invade every circumstance.
Hebrews 12 says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Grief is consuming, but it is not ALL-consuming. There is only one All-Consuming power, and His name is Jesus Christ, the Resurrected King, the One who can pull you out of the darkest of nights. If you are in a season of grief, or when you find yourself in one, surround yourself with the people of God, allow yourself to feel the pain with Jesus, and worship Him as the God and Savior He is.
Dieter Stach is the Baptism Coach and Parking Coach at The Life Church Manassas. He is also the Small Groups Coordinator at The Gathering GMU. He loves connecting with people, teaching about Jesus, writing, and drinking 6 gallons of coffee a day. It’s not a problem, and he can quit anytime he wants to.