Coping With Loss

Introduction

All of us know how awkward it can be when somebody passes away and we’re afraid so desperately that we might say the wrong thing and so often we don’t say anything.

But the pain of loss is not going to be diminished by our refusal to talk about it. Loss is a very real and hard part of life and loss is a subject, which is awkward to talk about.

It’s a subject that we would rather ignore sometimes and some of us have had to deal with loss at a deeper level than others. And some people are still trying to come to terms with their loss. Therefore, the question is, can gain come out of loss, if we know Jesus Christ?

We All Face Loss

I want to begin with a few fundamental principles, the first one, no one will disagree with. No matter how faithful we are to God, we will have to deal with the pain of loss and loss can come to us in a variety of distressing ways.

We can talk about the loss of a job, being very unsettling, loss of our health and some of you have dealt with that or are dealing with that right now. Another kind of loss is the loss of a marriage and there are a few things more painful than that. And certainly, all of us will have or will have to deal with the loss of a loved one.

Have you ever noticed that when it comes to selling life insurance, the advert or the salesperson talks in terms of possibly, perhaps, should happen, in the event of? Do you not find it upsetting to hear salesmen or read adverts that talk about life’s only certainty, as if it were just a possibility? When in actual fact, death is a reality, Ecclesiastes 3:1-2.

We need to remind ourselves that everything we see around us today is temporary. There is nothing permanent we could look at today, except for the souls in the people who are around us.

And so, dealing with the absence of things we once enjoyed is going to be our constant reality, until Jesus comes back. Mourning is an inevitable part of life.

We All Grieve

Here’s the second very crucial principle, the Bible says there is a uniquely Christian way to grieve. That is one of the first things people noticed about the early Christians. They noticed their faith; they noticed their incredible love for each other. But one of the first things that was noticed about the first Christians was that they had an incredibly unique way to grieve.

Christian history has been blessed by a number of documents written by or about the first Christians. Here’s an extract from one of the very first ones. A man named Aristotle wrote it, about AD 125, and he was trying to explain why the Christian religion was growing so rapidly.

He said, ‘This is something about them that is most unique. Any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they accompany his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place, to another, nearby.’

Denial

Now, that’s not how the world knows grieving. When you think about secular grief, what words would come to your mind? One word that comes to mind is denial, non-Christians want to either deny death is going to happen or they’re going to deny the person they lost was very important.

Angry

Another word is anger, people get very angry. They can get angry with the doctors who didn’t take care of the person better. They can get angry with the people who didn’t care enough about the person. They can get angry with the person for leaving or for leaving life in such a reckless way. They can even get angry with themselves for all the things that they regret.

Guilt

Another word when we think about secular grief is guilt. Guilt over the things they wish you had said, the things they did say, you wish you could take back. The things they wish they could do but can’t do. The things they wish they had never done.

Hope

Now, what word do you think of when you think of Christian grief? The word the Bible uses is the word hope. The Bible does not say Christians don’t grieve; the Bible says that Christians grieve in hope! We grieve first in the hope Christ has conquered death and there is going to be a reunion of all the saints of God, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

But we also grieve in the hope that we are going to survive this loss and that we’re not going to miss out on the life that God wants us to experience. The hope that even in loss, there’s gain, if you know Christ.

Release The Grief

We need to allow our grief to happen or to put it this way, admitting our feelings is the beginning of healing. Grief is a God-given emotion, it is a gift from God to help us struggle through and survive the pain of loss, so, we need to use grief properly, Matthew 5:4.

Calmly handling life as if nothing ever hurts you is not faith, it’s mere pretension. That is why when we read our Old Testament, one of the Biblically accepted forms of worship in the Bible, a form which we don’t practice today is a form called lament.

And many of the Psalms in the Bible are simply laments, people pouring out their complaints and broken hearts out to God and mourning before the Lord and the Lord received it as worship.

Notice that the Bible teaches us that mourning is not a moment, it is a process. And so, we read in the Old Testament people would often take a week, or they would take 30 days, or they’d take 90 days to mourn and that’s something we know.

We do not mourn for a day; it takes a long time to mourn a great loss. Months later, we can come across a simple thing that reminds us of the person we have lost, and we just lose it and break down and weep, which is normal.

It is only normal there are going to be times in the process of mourning that the flood and the pain are going to come back and hit us again.

This is God’s gift to us, to help us survive the loss and we need to admit that feeling, we don’t need to be afraid to cry and we don’t need to be afraid to cry out to God, Psalms 62:8.

We know something about our God through Jesus Christ, because our Lord went into the tomb, for a friend of His who was dead, and He wept according to John 11:35.

Now He wasn’t crying because Lazarus was dead, after all, He’s about to raise him back to life. No! He was crying because He saw the full consequences of sin. And men, if our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ can weep openly, follow His example, and do the same instead of bottling it all up inside. There is no shame for a man to weep openly for the loss of a loved one.

Our God understands tears and the best thing we can do with our tears is just to weep before the Lord and let Him comfort us. Releasing our grief is the first step to healing, but don’t stop there. If all you do is release grief, we are never going to get better, we’re not going to grow through loss.

Receive From Others

Often when loss happens in our lives, what we want to do is build walls around ourselves and go into solitary confinement. When in fact, this is important, God intended for the grieving process to happen in community. It is a direct command from the Holy Spirit that the church needs to practice the process of corporate mourning, Romans 12:15.

If someone in the body is mourning, we need to respond by mourning with them. Other people need to enter into our pain, we need to let them do what the body of Christ is designed to do. Not only does God want to let others mourn with us, but He will expect something of us someday.

God is going to expect of us, someday to go and be a mourner with others and extend to them, the comfort God gave us through other people, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. The word ‘comfort’ literally means to strengthen.

The God of all strength, Paul says, strengthens His people when times are tough. Paul says because He strengthens us when times are tough, we should also strengthen other people when they are going through tough times.

When we receive strength from God, we go some day, and we strengthen somebody else with the strength you received. When we see people in our body, the church, going through loss, we need to go and mourn with them, not just for the first few days, we’re good at that. I mean for several months, for however long it takes, they are in mourning, they need to mourn in community.

That doesn’t mean we have to go and solve all the hard questions; it just means we have to be there to grieve with them. When we’re in mourning we need to let the body do what God wants it to do. Don’t build up walls and don’t slam doors, but let the body come and do what God wants it to do.

People say they will get their strength from God, well, that’s exactly how God sends His strength, He sends the church to you. We need to start building those relational bridges now, so that when loss comes, there are people who can walk into our life.

The people who will encounter problems are the pew warmers and winter Christians because when great loss comes nobody is going to be able to walk across the bridge. We need to build these bridges now, by participating in church life and activities, like Bible Studies, mid-week prayer meetings, and outreach activities.

We don’t have to get involved with everything, but we need to get involved in something. So that people will be there when loss comes because we need not only to release our grief, but we also need to receive from others.

Refuse To Be Bitter

To grow through loss, we need to refuse to be bitter, Hebrews 12:15, that is why we grieve in community. We can get bitter at the doctor, we can get bitter at friends we didn’t think gave enough support, we can get bitter at the person who has gone, and we can even get bitter at God.

But happiness will never come in until we kick bitterness out and kicking bitterness out is a conscious decision we have to make. We don’t have to wonder, is God trying to teach us something! God is always trying to teach us something.

And so, when loss does come into our life, what we can do is decide, what can we learn from this. How can we grow through this? How can we give God glory in this?

We get to decide how to respond to whatever happens in life. Mourning is inevitable but bitterness is a choice and so is growth. We need to refuse to be bitter and remember what can never be lost.

Remember What Cannot Be Lost

To grieve with hope, we must ‘build our lives on things that can never be taken away’. There are some things we have in Jesus Christ that cannot be lost. We cannot lose their memory, their influence is not lost, our faith in God is not lost, our hope of heaven is not lost, 1 Peter 1:3-4.

Our confidence that evil, will lose, is not lost, our absolute conviction that we will be with them again is not lost. We don’t really lose saints because we know where they are, we can’t see them, but they’re not lost.

Job was one of the richest men in the Bible, he had numerous possessions and he had seven sons and three daughters, then, Satan came and took it all away.

At the end of the Book of Job in Job 42:12-13, God rewards this Godly man, and he gives him double of everything and he gives him seven sons and three daughters.

Why didn’t God double the children like he doubled everything else? Why didn’t he get twenty kids? I’ll tell you why, he had twenty kids! God did double his children, he had ten in heaven, and he had ten on earth. Job will have twenty kids forever and we need to remember that we need to remember what can never be lost.

Part of our struggle is, we only see loss from our side. It is precious to God, when one of His kids comes home, Psalm 115:16. The death of one of God’s kids is so precious to Him, that He makes sure that they understand that He is there with them. We don’t see death on our side like God does, our loss truly is their gain.

Rely On Christ And His Strength

One thing a great absence can teach us is the reality of the great presence of God. When Jesus went to Nazareth and preached His first public sermon, He chose Isaiah 61:1-3. In His first sermon, Jesus made it clear that the very first thing God had sent Him to do, was to strengthen the mourner and to turn despair, into praise.

Trust that Jesus will keep His promise and turn to Him just like the apostle Paul did, 2 Corinthians 1:8-10. Paul also said in Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me”. God will give you strength when you face great loss. That is what He promises, it is just a matter of us accepting God at His word.

Conclusion

If you are not a Christian let me, ask you, for you to live, is what? Having a nice car, owning a gorgeous home, my family, my career, my health or have a few thousand pounds in your bank account. Do you realise that all of those things can be gone at any moment in time?

What about this question, for you to die, is what? A shame, a pity, tragic. If you are not a Christian that’s the way most people think but not if you are a Christian. Knowing Jesus not only gives us a reason to live but also a reason to die, Philippians 1:21.

Jesus gives us a reason to live because no matter what life takes away from us, the world can’t take away Jesus and His promise of eternal life for all those who love Him from us.

Loss is a difficult subject to speak about because it’s loaded with emotions and rightly so. And if you give your life to Christ, you will soon discover that a life lived for Jesus is worth living for.

And a life dying for Christ can only be a gain if it’s something better than what we experience whilst we’re living. A life which is eternal life in the presence of Jesus Himself.

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