I received a letter from a friend to day, grieving over the loss of a dear friend. I thought maybe someone else might benefit from reading a bit of our exchange.
They questioned whether or not they ought to feel such grief. Which raised a question over Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus.
Why indeed would Jesus weep? And I think the chief part of the answer is to be found in the very way Scripture bids us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) – because He felt our sorrow as His own. Everyone who ever stands at the grave of a loved one, or, in your case, grieves from afar, knows instinctively that death is not natural. It was not a part of the natural order of creation. It came in by means of the fall. And the grief we feel at this loss and separation which is due expressly to sin’s ravages is as much a testimony to the grief over sin that God feels, as well as to the love we shared with the individual.
The doctrine of God’s impassibility shows us that God is never the victim of His emotion, or driven by it. But it does not exclude His possession of true emotion – for it is a part of our created nature as made in His image. So Christ entered fully into the human experience. You see it when on the night of His passion he tells the disciples how with “desire” He desired to eat that last meal with them. Or again, a few hours later when He confides in them that His soul was “sorrowful, even unto death.” He felt the pains and ravages of sin upon the human race so keenly, that the Scripture calls Him “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Doesn’t the Spirit intercede for us with “groanings which cannot be uttered”? On the Cross He felt the whip due every man for every sin. The sheer weight of such a load must be so far past our wildest imaginations. Yes, He would raise His dear friend Lazarus from the dead – twice at that. Once to die again, and once again in the final resurrection. Yet so deep is the sense of how deeply sin affects man in death, that even the Son of God, though fully aware this death was but temporary, weeps with Lazarus” sisters and friends.
Because this is so, when Paul gives his instructions to the Thessalonians, he does not tell them not to sorrow over the loss of their deceased brothers and sisters in Christ – but to “sorrow not as those who have no hope.” Should we try to suppress sorrow, we try to act as though death is not the product of sin and a grievous enemy to be triumphed over. But it is an enemy. The last enemy Christ will conquer completely – 1 Cor. 15:26. Till then, we weep. And He weeps with us. He never overlooks our distress in the aftermath of the Fall. In fact, the very use of the word mercy – in terms of God having mercy on men – throughout the Scriptures always carries this idea: That He is merciful in relieving the suffering brought upon us by sin and the Fall.
One of the most poignant passages in the NT is Jesus’ reaction to the senseless murder of His cousin and comrade in the Kingdom – John the Baptist. In Matt. 14 we see that “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” John’s death impacted Him. He didn’t just toss it off. He wanted to be alone. The record goes on to show the crowd would not let Him alone, and it is in the midst of this sorrow that He feeds the 5 thousand. But after that is done, He goes up on the mountain alone to pray, and sends His disciples on ahead of Him in the boat. He retreats to take this grief to the throne of the Father. There He waits and pours out His soul until long after dark. He grieves. He prays. He moves on. But He does not ignore.
So you too will have to just let your own heart feel the unnatural pain of such a loss. But not as those without hope. As one who knows that one day, you will see your dear friend again. In that Day when God Himself will wipe every tear from our eyes. When death will be no more. When all such unnatural pains will be forever put behind us. And we will rejoice around the throne of God and King who loves us more dearly than we can love our friends, or even ourselves. As Jeremiah, who was so sorely grieving God’s chastening hand upon Israel was finally brought to say –
Lam. 3:21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust–– there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.
31 For the Lord will not cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.
I do hope that helps some my friend.
Once again, I am so sorry for your loss.