The Privileged Life: An Ocean of Grief

The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.” Psalm 93:4; “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows….” Isaiah 53:4a

Saturday, February 22, was a difficult day for me. I missed my wonderful dad who would have celebrated his 90th birthday–he passed away two years ago. And I lost my dear friend Sandy Smith suddenly. God called her home much too early for me and for our church. You see, Sandy was our music director and pianist, so extraordinarily talented. She was my daughter’s first piano teacher and gave her a lifelong love for music. I have lost a sweet friendship that spanned a quarter century. And I’m still grieving today for Dad.

During worship on Sunday morning, our church family sang three hymns—although it was unplanned, all three referred to grief as a raging ocean whose billows roll over us. The loss, the hole in our hearts, felt like a rising tide from which we could not escape.

It’s an appropriate description for grief—something that tugs at us, crashes in on us, sucks the ground out from under our feet, leaves us feeling powerless and small in the face of its vast and unrelenting surge. Grief overwhelms. Grief is pain that takes a long time to subside and carries little pieces of us away in its wake.

As Christ-followers, we know intellectually that this life is not all there is. Jesus has promised a place with Him in heaven for those who love Him and believe He is the Son of God. I know that even now, in the eternity that awaits us, Sandy is already singing praises to her Savior in the chorus of the saints. She is immersed in the music of the spheres, songs too wildly beautiful for us to comprehend yet. I hope she has found my Dad and given him a hug.

But having that confidence doesn’t mean we shouldn’t grieve. We have this privilege from Christ Himself. He, too, grieved in the face of death. When His good friend Lazarus died and was buried in a tomb, we find those two famous words uttered in John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” They speak volumes.

Death was excruciatingly painful for the Author of life. Jesus especially shrank back at the anticipation of His own death, sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before humbly taking on the atrocity of the cross.

Jesus knows our pain…He was a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Even now, He feels our heartache as He sits on the right hand of His Father in heaven, interceding for us.

That ocean of grief? Our Creator God, who formed the seas, their swells, and all things that dwell within them, is mightier than any waves that come against us. He walks beside us, holding our hands, catching us when we fall. He hears our prayers and knows the grief of our hearts. He comforts us with the presence of His Holy Spirit and with His promises in the Bible—that one day, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain. When we meet Him face to face, all grief will vanish in the light of His glory. 

Sandy, Dad…we loved you. We miss you. And we will see you again.

Holy and Sovereign God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we cry out to You when we are sinking in grief. We need Your comforting words, Your everlasting arms beneath us, Your love enfolding us. You, O Lord, are a Shield, our Glory and the One who lifts up our heads…hear us from Your holy hill. Remind us that Your Son, Jesus Christ, has already borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, and that He has been smitten and afflicted for us.

You, O God, have defeated death itself. While we experience its grim finality in our earthly relationships, death loses its sting in Your presence—with You, the Author of all life, there is only abundant life. Turn our eyes away from the desolation of death and into the fullness of joy and hope that flow from You.

During this season of grief, we will yet praise You according to Your righteousness, and we will sing praise to Your name, O Lord Most High. For You will once again light our lamp of joy; You, the Lord our God, will enlighten our darkness. Turn our mourning into dancing; clothe us with gladness, to the end that we may sing praise to You and not be silent. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.

Two of the stanzas from hymns this morning:

Jesus! What a help in sorrow! While the billows o’er me roll, even when my heart is breaking, He, my Comfort, helps my soul. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end. J Wilbur Chapman (1910) 

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.” Horatio Gates Spafford (1873)

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