Permission to Grieve

I’ve been praying for a friend who just lost a loved one. And in my prayers, I have prayed for her to experience permission to grieve. It may sound like a silly prayer, but in my own experience of grief, I’ve felt as if I wasn’t supposed to do so because of the hope of heaven. I felt I wasn’t a strong Christian because of the different emotions running through my soul. None of those emotions remotely resembled joy.

During those first few weeks of my grief, the Lord reminded me of something very important:

He created us as relational beings.
He gave us the capacity to love.
It was His divine design for us to desire companionship, family, relationships.
 It is who He is.
So when we lose someone, despite our promise of heaven and eternity together, we grieve because we miss them. It’s that simple.

God knows our hearts. He will not leave us in the grief. He does not want us to stay there, but He does understand. Nothing demonstrates this better than the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Do you remember Jesus’ reaction when Lazarus died? I wrote about it in A Mary Like Me. Here is an excerpt.

Mary ran to Jesus, flung herself to the ground prostrate before the Lord, and she wailed, “Lord! If you would have been here, my brother would not have died!” (Exclamation marks mine.) John continues painting this scene. He tells us, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (11:33). Her actions caused Jesus to be distressed. Take a minute to meditate on this thought. Mary was so distraught, Jesus was troubled. The translators have told us that Mary was “weeping.” It was her weeping and thrusting herself before His feet that troubled Yeshua. There was a reason for this.

In fact, I’m not sure why the translators have chosen to use the English word “weep” to describe Mary’s tears. In our culture, “weeping” arouses the imagery of a quiet, gentle, slow, steady stream of tears. But this was not Mary’s cultural way of mourning. The original text uses the word klaiō. This word is the very essence of her tears. Synonyms for klaiō are “bewail or moan.” Mary’s culture mourned with great demonstration of their pain and grief. Mary was not just sniffling here; she was wailing out loud! She was crying from the depths of her soul! Her face was probably red, and her eyes were swollen as hot, bitter tears flowed down her face. She had flung herself prostrate before the Lord, petitioning an explanation for His inaction and howling as her grief took over her voice and body weary with heartache.

Jesus was moved by her actions. He was distressed by her pain and grief. There are not very many scenes in the Bible where we are told that Jesus was troubled. We see Him frustrated with His disciples many times and agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane. But Mary’s honest emotional outburst caused the peace within Him to escape for a moment. And Jesus was troubled.

It is so hard to conceive the concept that Jesus was both God and man. Scripture makes it clear He is our High Priest who has the ability to empathize with our frail human characteristics. He is able to empathize because He has lived in our skin, yet this Son of Man is the same life-giving God who will raise His friend Lazarus from the dead. Despite this privy knowledge, Mary’s pain troubled our Jesus. He could have told Mary to calm down because it would soon be okay. He could have told her she was overreacting. But we are told that rather than rebuke her emotional outburst, He cried with her and the other mourners surrounding them. This is our Jesus. Despite His foreknowledge of the future, He is in the moment with us…..

He cries with us. He isn’t rejoicing in heaven because another has come home– not yet. There may be rejoicing, but I believe Jesus cries with those still on this earth. The ultimate rejoicing will be when all is made new. When heaven and earth will be restored, our bodies resurrected, and we reign and rule with Jesus together. Until then, we have permission to grieve.

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