I’ve been creating a series of videos on Instagram on the myths we hold about grief. One that many people messaged me about was this: should Christians grieve?
This honestly surprised me, since grief is a natural response to deep loss. But some declare the Bible says not to grieve. That because a loved one is in the beauty and perfection of heaven, we shouldn’t mourn.
Maybe someone has dismissed your pain with comments like, “she’s better off” or “he’s in a better place” or “God works everything for good.”
If these are true, is it wrong to grieve? We can 100% believe these statements are true and we can experience deep sorrow.
Nothing in scripture hints that believers shouldn’t grieve. In fact, Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there’s a time to weep and a time to mourn.
Let’s look at five scriptural truths for Christians dealing with grief.
What the Bible says about grieving
1.It’s not wrong to experience emotions of deep grief.
Life-altering loss ushers in hard emotions like shock, sadness, despair, anger, fear, regret, confusion, vulnerability and the like. These feelings are intense, persistent and unpredictable.
And while these emotions may unsettle us, they don’t unsettle God. God who made us fearfully and wonderfully, made us with emotion. He made us to think and do and FEEL.
Our hard emotions aren’t signs that we’re handling our hurt all wrong, but indicators we’re responding to circumstances gone wrong. Our emotions are not only safe with God, they are safest with God. They don’t surprise God or put him off, nor does he give us a timer for our pain.
It’s not our emotions that become issues but what we do with them. The only way to deal with the hard emotions of grief is to meet them head on and process through them.
2. It’s not wrong to cry in grief.
God gave us a huge gift when he created tears. Of all the creatures he made, he gave humans alone the ability to release emotional tears.
Our tears help us to physically and emotionally process pain. Science shows that tears help us release stress, calm down and soften pain.
And not a single teardrop escapes God’s attention. Psalm 56:8 says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
3. The Bible provides multiple examples of grief.
The Bible has multiple examples of faithful servants who grieved deeply. Hannah was so broken over her barrenness she couldn’t eat and wept desperately at the altar.
David grieved with fasting and sackcloth as his infant son lay dying. And when he learned that his son Absalom had been killed, David was “overcome with emotion.” Scripture describes the scene with great emotion:
He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” (2 Sam. 18:31-33)
The entire book of Job is about an “upright and blameless” man grappling with his grief and suffering, the book of Ruth chronicles the deep losses of Naomi and Ruth and Psalms is filled with songs of lament. LINK
Scripture never rebukes any of these for expressing or experiencing grief. Instead, by including multiple examples of grief, God shows us that grief is the natural and expected response to deep loss.
4. Grief reminds us this world is not our home.
We were not made for death or devastation or divorce or disease. All of these are the result of the fall, of a world under a curse. (Romans 8:20)
So when we experience death or devastation, divorce or disease, it’s a stark reminder that this world is not our home. It creates in us a longing for eternity, to be united with God and free from the hurt and pain on earth.
Grief is a reminder that we will all die. That every earthly lifespan is a vapor compared to eternity, whether it’s 14 or 44 or 104 years. Grief reminds us that world not our home, which should change what we value and how we spend our days.
5. Jesus himself modeled grief.
When Jesus took on human flesh, he took on human emotions as well. He didn’t insulate himself from difficult emotions like grief, sorrow, anguish, rejection, loneliness and more.
When Jesus’ close friend Lazarus became critically ill, the sisters Mary and Martha sent for Jesus. But by the time he got there, Lazarus had been buried for four days.
Mary fell at Jesus feet weeping, moving Jesus so deeply the Bible records this stunning verse: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
These two powerful words show we have permission to grieve as well.
Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus, yet before he ever changed the circumstance, he entered their grief.
Jesus made space for grief. And rather than dismissing the real pain of those at Lazarus’ tomb, he instead entered it with them.
What does 1 Thessalonians 4:13 mean?
This is the verse that gets misapplied to say Christians shouldn’t grieve. First Thessalonians 3:14 says:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
This verse doesn’t say Christians shouldn’t grieve. It says that WHEN we grieve, we don’t grieve like those who are without hope.
The context of this verse gives clarity. Paul was addressing the second coming and the false belief that those who died wouldn’t experience it. Here’s the full passage surrounding 1 Thessalonians 4:13:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:13-18)
In these verses, Paul corrected the misconception that a believer who died before Jesus’ second coming missed the second coming. Paul explained that those who die before Jesus’ second coming will “rise first” followed by those “who are alive.”
They could fully grieve the death of their loved ones, but they could grieve their loss with hope.
Should Christians grieve? Scripture expects it, models it and makes provision for it. And God always, always welcomes our pain.