Mar 1, 2024

Is It OK for Christians to Grieve?

3 Min Read

It happens with irregular regularity: suffering inserts itself into our otherwise pleasant lives and disrupts yet again. Grievous experiences have an unwelcome way of doing that. They barge right in, uninvited, leaving those who take the impact mourning, sorrowful, and feeling diminished. These painful providences bring about genuine harm and loss. Additionally, they never come at a desirable time, because honestly, there is no desirable time to face hardships.

And yet, there is sometimes a mentality in the church that we must seek to conceal our grief, put on a happy face, and go about life as though these challenges we face are “fine.” We answer the regular greeting of “How are you?” with “I’m well, thank you,” when inside we are far from “well.” We go to worship and sing songs that feel just a bit too chipper for our present situation.

There seems to be the thought that Christians, buoyed up by the strength of the Lord, need not (perhaps ought not) welcome grief—that there is strength in downplaying such distress at life’s difficulties. After all, we are to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2).

With such perspective, though, believers are left wondering what place there is to mourn. Ecclesiastes 7:2–4 is conspicuously absent in our day-to-day theology:

It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.

Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

We can understand the world not wanting to grieve, for they mourn as ones who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). Such a casting off of pain makes sense to the world’s position. But what about the church? Why are we tempted to buy into the lie that suffering should be treated as minor and trivial? And why do we avoid the house of mourning and instead rush headlong to the house of feasting, laughter, and mirth?

Dear Christian, let us sorrow well. Let us weep and grieve, but not despair.

Perhaps we are beginning to preach the world’s solution to ourselves of, “Eat, drink, and be merry” (Eccl. 8:15) “for tomorrow we die” (Isa. 22:13). We have effectively taken that which is heinous; that which is abnormal to God’s original design and creation; that which has intruded upon all that He made “very good” and sullied this sphere of life, blessing, and bounty; and we have made that intruder something it is not. We have said of this enemy, Suffering—this interloper and invader of God’s good design—which came as a result of our fall into sin, “You’re not so bad.” However, God’s truth is so much more glorious than attempting to face sorrow with mere stoicism.

In God’s economy, the believer can rightly call aguish what it is: awful and unpleasant. We can go to the house of mourning, rightly taking these griefs to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) and rightly taking them to heart (Eccl. 7:2). After all, the Psalms are replete with godly expressions of lament. In fact, there’s an entire book of the Bible dedicated to it (Lamentations)!

We also simultaneously hold the hopeful truth that God has overcome the curse in Jesus Christ. He has triumphed over this sphere of sin and misery and has redeemed even all our woes, commandeering difficulties for His good purposes in our lives. So, we do not grieve as those without hope. We rightly grieve, but we also rightly trust the Lord’s good providence in the midst of grief. These truths stand in godly unison and not oppositional tension.

So, dear Christian, let us sorrow well. Let us weep and grieve, but not despair. Let us allow our brothers and sisters to mourn and not place a moratorium on their grief—an amount that is Christianly acceptable before they ought simply to smile again. And may we all take heart, for even though we face all kinds of trouble in this world, Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).

One day, every sorrow will be wiped away (Rev. 21:4). But today is not that day. Until then, we say, “Come, Lord Jesus.”