Many days I wake up and my first conscience thought is, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” My grief is a punch to the gut in the morning and an unwelcome gnawing throughout the day. And I know I’m not alone in that—how many friends do I have who are grieving? One whose husband just departed too early to heaven, several whose marriages are an unhappy toil, some whose babies slipped away well before their time, many who are weathering storms of lost jobs, unexpected moves, disintegrated friendships, debilitating health. Life is hard.
As I’ve shared our loss with a few close friends and have been forced to verbalize what I believe about it, I’ve had to choose my words. How shall I think about my grief and disappointment? What is true? Where will my heart rest and return in the weariness?
For the last several days, Romans 12:12 has been a north star. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he reminds them that we are living sacrifices and that, indeed, life is hard. And in the midst of all that is hard, Paul says, “be joyful in hope, be patient in affliction, be faithful in prayer.”
Be joyful in hope
God is not through with our stories of grief yet. He’s doing thousands of things you and I and others don’t even know about. We can’t be sure of what He’s doing because His thoughts and ways are not like ours—they are higher (Isaiah 55:8-9). We cannot follow His wisdom and knowledge and path (Romans 11:33), but we can know that what He has ordained is for our good (Romans 8:28). We know His character—it is good and trustworthy. We rejoice in knowing the reality of the resurrection, the hope of heaven, the ultimate victory we have in Christ. The Lord has disarmed the powers and authorities of the world and, through the cross, we triumph over them (Colossians 2:15). We can be joyful in hope because just as the Father did not end the story with His son in the grave, for we who are in Christ, our stories do not end with the loss we currently feel.
Be patient in affliction
Nothing can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38). We can be patient in our suffering, knowing that we will not be torn from God’s hands. Our afflictions here are, in reality, light and momentary and they “are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). This is not a time for comparing our loss to another’s. We are each the Lord’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) and we are called to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2). We can be patient in our affliction because God “is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
Be faithful in prayer
Perhaps our primary role in navigating grief is to “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). The Lord Himself, our resurrected Savior and Creator of all that is seen and unseen, says that we may come to Him with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus told his disciples that “they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Being faithful in prayer means giving ourselves over to it daily, routinely. When we pray, we remember that God is God and we are not. We recall His power, His resurrection, His ability to do more than we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). In prayer, we are reminded of His goodness and His promises to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We can be faithful in prayer because we know that God is for us and if He gave us His own Son, we can trust Him to work in our current trials too (Romans 8:31-32).
These verses give welcome counsel when I don’t know what to do with my grief. They orient my mind and remind my heart of what is true. Because of Jesus—because of the Gospel—I can be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.
BE JOYFUL IN HOPE * PATIENT IN AFFLICTION * FAITHFUL IN PRAYER