The experience of loss and grief never wanes in the Body of Christ. Every church, every household and every mission field knows the reality of death and the loss that death creates in our souls. There are many people around us grieving – sadly people suffering though grief feel mostly alone and tend to isolate themselves because of their perception that the burden of their pain might be too much for others to want to deal with.
As the Body of Christ, we have an opportunity to put into practice what we believe about God, what we believe about humankind and what we believe about the gospel in order to help those feeling the isolation of grief. But before we enter into that kind of ministry, we need to know what we should be believing so that we will be an instrument of grace rather than an instrument of further pain:
1. Believe in the One Who Has the Power to Heal
I oversee the Biblical Counseling ministry here at Redemption Gateway. One of the things that I need to remind my teammates and myself of all the time is that “Jesus has not called us to fix or heal anyone. Our role is to love them and point them back to the One who can.”
While we have been called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we are also reminded in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5,15-16 where the power of that love comes from and where the discernment to lead people Spiritually comes from:
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
2. Believe You Can Be an Instrument of Grace
Most of us feel helpless as we watch others suffer through grief. While it’s true that God alone has the power to heal, he allows us to play a significant role in the process. The depth of that role will differ based on some variables: What’s your relationship to that person? What’s your position in their life? In other words, the more intimate and deeper the relationship the more intimate and deeper the role you can possibly have as they mourn. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
So whether you have a casual or even the deepest relationship with someone who is grieving there will be many opportunities for you to lean into the pain of others and serve them. We will unpack in a future blog post about how we can best serve people who are grieving and here are few bullet points to set that table:
- Be Available: When they call answer.
- Be Present: Be ready to listen well and/or sit in silence well.
- Be Willing to Empathize: Show your compassion through your own humility and brokenness. Don’t pretend you are above pain.
- Be Ready to Serve Them: Look for ways to provide practical help that will create space in their lives – meals, house cleaning, shopping, babysitting, etc.
- Be Authentic: Feel the freedom to say I don’t know why this happened
- Be Uncomfortable: Don’t tell them to stop crying and that everything will be ok just so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable.
- Be Realistic: Emotions will vary greatly. From laughing at memories to expressing anger, give them space they need to express both.
- Be Prayerful: Pray for them, pray with them.
- Be a Student: Take the time to learn what makes up the stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, Acceptance).
- Be Consistent: Don’t forget about them. We can easily get back into our own routine after just a few days. Remember this will a long-term ordeal.
- Be Ready to Repeat: You will journey through the above list multiple times.