How is Christian grief different from the grief of others?
Many aspects of grief for Christians is actually very similar to non-Christians’ grief. We are all human beings created to feel the full range of emotions no matter what our faith. Different faiths, however, often provide different explanations for life and death, and thus different meaning is found for those who are in grief.
For Christians, we do not grieve without hope. Scriptures remind us of the eternal hope for those who have died before us. This is surely a source of comfort—that our loved ones continue to live in the presence of God.
Yet the here and now pain of missing our loved ones is also excruciatingly real. And the common faith-based answers can feel like putting a band-aid on a broken limb. “How nice that he is in eternal bliss, but what about me here, now trying to survive?” “Isn’t God supposed to take care of us? We were sharing God’s compassion in the world—but I don’t see it now?”
Honoring the Questions
Questions like these and many others are also normal for Christians to ask. Scriptures are full of stories of people questioning God. See the section on the Psalms of Lament. An important element in Christian grief is not that we don’t ask the questions, but that we ask the questions to God. Our lament is in dialogue with God.
Here are a couple of poems that I wrote that show how my grief journey shifted my view of God. They are published in my book Seasons of Solace.
I always prayed
for safety and joy
and success in my
I used to think God’s children
could expect these things.
Isn’t that what “abundant life” means?
Then I went to Haiti and Honduras.
Then I read about Christians in China.
Then I lived in Asia.
Then John died.
Then I read the Gospels again.
Which Woman’s Jesus?
One preached, “Pray in the name of Jesus.”
There is power in that mighty name.
Your life will demonstrate victory;
you will experience healing and wholeness.
The second told of Jesus walking into the wilderness.
No food, no nourishment, just rocks and dirt.
Emptiness, no sign of the three-day resurrection.
Forty days of destitution.
The first gave easy answers found to solve life’s problems,
just pray with faith to move the mountains.
After all, God is a God of miracles.
Jesus will turn your mourning into dancing—just believe.
The second admitted she didn’t have the answers.
Why are there wildernesses in our lives?
Why do we suffer through pain and loss?
All we know is that Jesus walked there too.
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