Last week I wrote to you about death, a horrible, unnatural, unpredictable, and yet completely unavoidable human experience. I gave you four theological principles to remember when death enters your door.
I believe that all theology is practical theology. If you “study God” – which is what theology does – it should change the way you live. Theology provides more than just information for your brain; it provides transformation for your soul.
How can you apply theology to grief? Here are 8 actions to take when death enters your door:
1. Speak Honestly
The Bible never encourages you to ‘apply makeup’ to your faith. In fact, God welcomes questions and groaning. Psalm 13, 22, 38, 42, 55, 59, 61, 73, and 88 are just a few accounts of a Christian talking with God about horrible circumstances. So when your life gets ugly – and there are few experiences uglier than death – don’t pretend that your soul is at rest if it isn’t. Speak honestly with God and with others.
2. Seek Comfort
Everyone who grieves simultaneously seeks comfort. There’s a hole in our heart caused by grief, and we’re desperate to fill it. For some of us, alcohol, drugs, or prescription medication is the cure. For others, comfort food and television make us feel better. Even seemingly harmless activities like exercise, reading, or crafts can be used to numb pain. These will all provide some measure of distraction, but they won’t sustain you in times of grief. Only Christ can bring deep and lasting comfort (Matthew 5:4).
3. Resist Temptation
When you grieve, you’re vulnerable to temptation that you normally could resist. Death will raise doubt, anger, envy, self-pity, and an array of other emotions that could lead to sin. During these times, the Enemy loves to sneak up on your soul and attack. Be aware of your vulnerability and resist (1 Peter 5:8-9).
4. Pursue Community
I say this all the time: your walk with God is a community project. You were never designed to do life alone, and community is especially necessary when you’re experiencing death. You need additional perspectives on your grief, so pursue brothers and sisters who know you, know their Bible, and know what you’re going through. Don’t be ashamed to say, “I can’t handle this by myself.”
5. Recognize Blessing
The Apostle Paul tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and Job worships after experiencing devastating loss (Job 1:21) It’s Biblical to grieve and mourn, but don’t just focus on your loss; look for the good things that God is giving birth or new life to out of this sad moment. Maybe it’s a new theological insight for your soul or a reconnection with an old friend. God is always up to something beautiful.
6. Stay Disciplined
Sometimes grief can be so powerful that it feels like you have died, too. The best way to keep your soul alive is to commune with the living God. Don’t stop praying, reading Scripture, or attending church. This is a moment, maybe more than ever, when you need to discipline yourself to participate in the habits of the faith.
7. Celebrate Eternity
Death signifies the end of life, but for the believer in Christ, death also signifies the beginning of life. Read the book of Revelation and eavesdrop on the life that is to come. Yearn for the glory that you’ll experience one day, and ask the Lord to come quickly so as to end the pain and grief caused by death.
8. Minister Freely
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that we’ve been given comfort by God so that we in turn can comfort others. It’ll be very tempting to make your loss all about you, but God calls (and enables) you to be an instrument of comfort in the lives of others. There may be no more significant time for you to represent the joy and comfort you have in the Lord than in the middle of loss. What a strong testimony you can share - both to the church and to the lost - when in the middle of tragedy you say, "Christ is enough for me!"
If you're struggling with grief and loss, you can listen to my five-part radio series on Grief, available for free. You can also purchase my DVD curriculum, When Suffering Enters Your Door.