God’s names are deeply meaningful in grief. When we’re grieving the death of a loved one or miscarriage, mourning an unwanted divorce or suffering from a devastating diagnosis, the names of God that comfort in grief anchor us to real hope.
This is the first in a series of posts on the names of God that comfort in grief. Today, we’ll look at five powerful names of God, their Biblical context and how they help us when we’re grieving.
Why are God’s Names Comforting?
The names of God, unveiled in scripture from Genesis to Revelation, help us understand God’s nature and his character.
See, knowing who God is helps us trust what he does.
In the Old Testament, God’s names are often revealed within a narrative or event giving us insight into who God is and how he deals with humanity.
In the New Testament, Jesus declares who he is through his names. He is the Light of the World, the Living Water, the True Vine.
Psalm 9:10 says, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
Knowing the names of God helps us know him more and deepens our faith. God hasn’t forsaken us. In heart-wrenching pain, we can trust God walks with us in our grief and loss.
Names of God that Comfort in Grief
El Shaddai: God Almighty
God revealed himself as El Shaddai to Abraham in Genesis:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly. (Gen. 17:1-2, ESV)
Traditionally translated as “God Almighty” or “God Most Powerful”, El Shaddai points to God not just being all powerful but also all sufficient.
God promised Abraham would have an heir and yet Abraham waited almost 25 years for God to fulfill that promise. Month after month, year after year, Sarah remained barren until at 9o years old, she was well past childbearing age.
God’s promise now seemed impossible. But the impossible was precisely when God chose to fulfill his promise to Abraham.
After Dan died, I questioned how in the world God would mend eight broken hearts. How would I provide for my family, lead seven children as a single mom and raise them to adults? Everything seemed impossible, from fixing the broken water heater to stepping into an unknown future.
When life empties, we’re at a place to know God as the all sufficient One. And when the way forward seems impossible, especially after seemingly unanswered prayer, we need to know God is all powerful.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1, ESV)
El Roi: God Who Sees Me
So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
The name El Roi means “God of seeing” or “God who sees me.”
This name of God is revealed by Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, after she fled to the desert to escape Sarah’s cruel mistreatment. Alone and despairing, the angel of God appeared to Hagar.
When all seemed lost, God reassured Hagar he had a hope and future for her. She would have Abraham’s son who would be the father of a multitude.
God sees not only our plight but our heart. He knows our pain, worries and regrets that no one else sees. We may feel alone, but God sees and cares. And when we look to him, he will guide us forward.
Do you feel isolated by your suffering? Have you questioned whether God is even paying attention or cares about your situation? He is El Roi, the God who sees you right now, who knows your heart and who knows the way he will take you.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. (1 Peter 3:12, ESV)
Jehovah Rapha: The Lord My Healer
In Exodus 15, God reveals himself as Jehovah Rapha – the God who heals. After God miraculously split the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites from Egypt and their pursuing enemy, he led them on a three-day journey into the wilderness.
When they ran out of water, God led them to Marah, but its water was bitter and undrinkable. The people grumbled against Moses and Moses cried out to the Lord. God told Moses to throw a log into the water, making the bitter water sweet.
The Lord used this first difficulty in their wilderness journey to test and teach them.
“If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.” (Ex. 15:26, ESV)
God had intentionally led them to a place of desperate need where he revealed himself by a new name: Jehovah Rapha. God is healer over our mind, body and soul.
While we often cry out to God for physical healing (and God can and does physically heal), our greater need is spiritual healing. By the wounds of Jesus, our soul is healed. (Isaiah 53:3, ESV)
God also promises to heal our grief. He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NIV)
But places of suffering allowed by God are always places of testing. Will we trust God through pain as well as prosperity? Will we worship him when life empties just as we do when life fills?
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3, ESV)
Jehovah Jireh: The Lord My Provider
I’ve known the name Jehovah Jireh for a long time thanks to a couple popular songs but I’d forgotten the Biblical context for this name. In Genesis 22, God instructs Abraham to take his son Isaac to Moriah to sacrifice him there. Abraham stunningly and immediately obeys, trusting God would provide the lamb for the offering.
God didn’t provide the lamb along the three-day journey. He didn’t provide it as Abraham and Isaac climbed Mt. Moriah or as Abraham tied his beloved son to the alter. But as Abraham took the knife for sacrifice, God stopped him and there provided fully and sufficiently with a ram caught in the thickets.
“Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’” (Gen. 22:14, ESV)
Dan’s death opened the door to a host of worries. We were a one-income family and that income was now gone.
I desperately needed God to provide for us. Not just financially, but I needed his sustaining grace for pain too hard to bear, his wisdom for single parenting and his guidance for overwhelming decisions.
Looking back over the last twelve years, I can clearly see how God meet every need. I still look to him to provide and trust implicitly that he is my Jehovah Jireh.
The One who did not move your mountain has led you to climb it and will himself provide for you in this place.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19, ESV)
Jehovah Tsuri: The Lord My Rock
Several years ago, I was whitewater kayaking when my kayak got caught in a hydraulic. For several minutes, I fought to get out of it, finally bailing into the rapids as the hydraulic pulled my inflatable kayak into the vortex. I was able to steer toward a large boulder, cling to it as I caught my breath and stand on it to keep from being carried away by the rapids.
Grief feels like getting caught in a maelstrom that just may pull us under. Fear surrounds us, we have to navigate massive change and we’re up against hard emotions like sorrow, regret and despair.
Psalm 18:2 says, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
In the turbulence of grief, we can cling to God. His steady faithfulness is our foundation when life implodes. We can count on his constant care and his promises that never change even when everything around us is swirling.
What are you grasping for in grief? Has loss revealed relationships, roles and dreams you thought would always be there?
God is our only sure foundation who will hold us up when we’re neck deep in grief.
Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any. (Isa. 44:8, ESV)
As we walk through grief, we can take our lament, questions and pain to God and trust the One who is richer, deeper, more loving and more caring than we could ever wrap our minds around.