A dear friend, who has just gone through a tragic loss, said to me, “I need to be strong but I feel so much grief.” Deep sorrow and anguish is a natural response to significant loss or suffering but is it a contrast to strength? As men, we often make the mistake of believing that strength is suppressing our grief and not allowing it to be seen. When we do this we not only cause ourselves harm but we are also missing an opportunity to positively impact the family of God. We need to redefine our definition of strength.
Please read the text below from II Corinthians 1:3-11 and consider some observations.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
- “…just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (5): There is a direct correlation between the suffering and grief we experience and the comfort we experience in Christ. To deny the grief is to deny the comfort of Christ.
- “…we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength…so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises from the dead” (8-9): There is a lesson to be learned in all suffering and grief. The pain of grief should be a reminder that we are not adequate, in and of ourselves, to handle the ups and downs of this life. The grief should be a reminder of our lack of control. To deny the grief is to deny God’s strength.
- “…He on whom we have set our hope.” (10): Suffering and grief should remind us of the temporary nature of this life. Properly embracing the grief will force us to place our hope in God, the only stable foundation we have in this world. To deny the grief is to misplace our hope.
- “…who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us…” (10): Allowing grief to turn our eyes towards God will strengthen our faith. As we leave one storm behind us and head towards the next, we will be secure in the knowledge that He has delivered us and will deliver us again. To deny our grief is to head towards the future unprepared.
- “…who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction” (4): Suppressing our pain and grief is ultimately selfish. We do not live in a vacuum and every tragedy and every hardship is an opportunity to be shaped and molded into a useful instrument for God. God is preparing you because somewhere out there someone needs comforted. To deny our grief is to fail our brothers.
- “…so that thanks may be given my many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.” (11): Worst of all, when we fail to embrace our grief and refuse to allow God to use us we are robbing Him of the thanks that He deserves. In a way, we are stealing His glory. Allowing others to see our pain provides them opportunity to be involved in prayer and encouragement and when we have come through the storm God will be glorified. To deny our grief is to deny God His glory.
Grief is a powerful force in our lives. We can suppress it and render ourselves useless in His kingdom. We can succumb to it and allow it to cloud our vision and erode our hope. Or we can embrace it, be trained by it, and become effective tools in the hands of our Creator. It is our choice.