Grieving for the Loss of Hope

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13–14

I grieve that we (the saints) have forgotten how to grieve. Death is a loss. Yes, it is gain for the departed, but for we who remain, experientially, it is loss (Philippians 1:21). We have tried to transform funerals into festivals. There is a time to mourn. We are not the healthier for ignoring that time.

I grieve that we have forgotten to grieve, but I grieve all the more that this often means we have forgotten how to hope. We rejoice in the life lived (on earth) instead of the life being lived and the life to be lived (in heaven). We look back when we should look forward. We exercise our memory of the past more than we do our longing for the future. We look to past photos more than future promises. We watch a video instead of reading the Bible. We listen to a favorite song of the departed instead of lifting up a song to the eternal Son who rose from the grave.

The remembrances are not for rejoicing. They are for grieving the loss and expressing gratitude for gifts enjoyed. Remember. Laugh. Smile. Give thanks. Yes! But do not anchor your joy or comfort there. The memories are for mourning. The promises are for praise. It is not as we look back that we find solace for our sorrow. It is as we look forward that we find hope to illumine our grief. Death is an enemy. He has dealt his blow. But there is victory in Christ. It is because we don’t grieve that we fail to lament “Come Lord Jesus!” Paradoxically, is because we are short on grief and lament that we are short on hope and joy.

I do grieve for the loss of hope, but more so, I have hope for the loss of all grief. Every tear will be wiped away. One reason I shed tears now is because I want others to know such hope in the midst of the grief they try to ignore. The storm is real. The rock is just as real. Don’t ignore the storm. Cherish the rock.

I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 
     my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, 
     my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, 
     and I am saved from my enemies. 

The cords of death encompassed me; 
     the torrents of destruction assailed me; 
the cords of Sheol entangled me; 
     the snares of death confronted me. 

In my distress I called upon the LORD; 
     to my God I cried for help. 
From his temple he heard my voice, 
     and my cry to him reached his ears.

—Psalm 18:1–6 (ESV)

“Where?” “Why?” (Jeremiah 8:18–9:11)

Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:

‘Is the LORD not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?’

‘Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images
and with their foreign idols?’ (Jeremiah 8:18)

Judah asks “Where?” God asks “Why?” Do you see how His question silences theirs? They seek for Him in tragedy, but not in their lives. Judah has incessantly committed adultery with her idols showing no remorse; but now that the taxes are due for her lavish lifestyle, she accuses her husband of abandoning her.

Who has not acted so foolishly when grieving? C.S. Lewis captures the agony well in A Grief Observed. What Lewis unpacks is not always rooted in such profound sin. Often God seems absent to His faithful servants in the midst of trials. But frequently, we wickedly want God more in our grief than we want Him otherwise.

haunted-house-1225739-1599x1148.jpg“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will be come. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’

…Of course it’s easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absent—non-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it quite frankly, we don’t ask for Him?”

We ignore God, and then we blame God for not being there when we taste something of the rod. Those who care nothing for God in their lives shouldn’t be surprised when He seems to care not for them as they taste of death. The scariest thing about running away from God, is that God just might let you. Of course you cannot escape Him totally. But one can, as it were, run from His long-suffering and into His judgment.

Of course, if one by grace turns in repentance, God is right there. But it’s quite presumptuous, isn’t it, to think one can spend a life running from God when happy, and then genuinely seek Him when sad? Such cries of “Where?” will be met with “Why?”