Five Psalms for Grieving with HopeJanuary 27, 2023 Suffering
Five Psalms for Grieving with Hope
As Christians, we are often uncertain how to grieve. Oftentimes, when death or other tragedy strikes, we often feel we are going “off the map” into unrecognized territory. Part of this is the way it should be. Death and sin are against the way God created the world. Grief disorients us because we are perceiving a tear in God’s good created design. But as a child, I remember being very undone by a young boy who was a member of our church who suddenly died. I was used to my world being predictable and death didn’t make any sense.
Here are five Psalm references that help process grief:
- “You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my honor and comfort me again.” Psalm 71:20-23
Notice, that the Psalmist doesn’t say his troubles come from his enemies, random chance, or any other impersonal force. His comfort comes from the fact that the Lord brought trouble into his life. Since He is the source, it is also the Lord who is able to recover him, even from the depths of the earth (this is the way the Psalms refer to death and the grave). This is similar to Job’s statement, “The Lord gave and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”. God is sovereign over our sadness.
- “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22
Psalm 55 calls us to take our grief to the Lord. It’s tempting to seek immediate relief and escape from grief. But grief takes time. We want to avoid and pretend. But here David doesn’t escape from his burdens. He lays out his pain before the face of a God who promises to listen and sustain us, and calls us to do the same.
- “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Lament Psalms outnumber all other genres. The Psalmist was experienced in grieving in the presence of the Lord. This should teach our hearts the importance of praying our griefs to God as well. But one tendency can be to sense that God has abandoned us. Psalm 22 even expresses this, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In Psalm 34, David guarantees that despite all feelings of abandonment, he is actually most present there. It is truly good news to know that God draws very close to us when we are broken-hearted and crushed in spirit.
- “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
As a shepherd, David knew the threats of leading sheep through dangerous valleys. When steep mountains rise up on each side, you can’t see if there is a crouching tiger or another hidden predator waiting to pounce. As he walked through these scary valleys, David knew that God’s goodness and mercy were pursuing him and protecting him. This is also comforting for those in grief. Sometimes, when you grieve the loss of a spouse, parents or close friend, the grief can seem to be eternal. But David tells us that goodness and mercy follow us through each long, hard day.
- “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:10-11
As we grow old, we consider the day of our own death and saying goodbye. Christ’s resurrection is our comfort in these last days too. When Jesus faced the cross, he had the confidence that the Father would not allow his body to stay in the grave forever. When we trust in Christ, our bodies and souls are both united to Him. Because of this union, his resurrection is the first part of ours. Grief is the appropriate response to the impact of sin and death on our world. What a comfort it is to know that Jesus has conquered sin and death. Paul promises a day, in 1 Corinthians 15, when death will be swallowed up by life:
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”
What Pastor Adrian is reading:
Nancy Guthrie, What Grieving People Wish You Knew About What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts). This book offers very practical advice when speaking to someone who has lost a loved one. We are often made uncomfortable by the grief of others. Guthrie reminds us to enter into their grief in wise and compassionate ways.
Charles Spurgeon, The Minister’s Fainting Fits (can be accessed online here: http://www.the-highway.com/articleSept99.html) Spurgeon comforts young pastors with the reality that periods of sadness, depression and grief are expected in the life of the ministry. Spurgeon walked through much grief in his life and it enabled him to minister with more compassion.