How does abiding in Christ equip the believer to deal with loss? When we suffer personal bereavement, it reveals not only the value we place on who/what was taken away, but also the adequacy of the resources we are depending upon during our time of grief.
We all face various kinds of loss as we travel on our pilgrimage: the loss of others in death, the loss of our health, the loss of finances or possessions, the loss of a friendship, the loss of a job, divorce, etc. Moving to a new job and community triggers a sense of loss of friends left behind. Our response to grief helps us evaluate who or what we are trusting in for security and fulfillment.
When Hannah was grieving over her childless condition, her husband consoled her saying, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1 Sam 1:8). Evidently he thought their marital relationship should compensate for her lack of children. When Hannah dedicated her future to God, however, He opened her womb and Samuel the prophet was born. After she fulfilled her commitment and presented young Samuel to live and serve at God’s tabernacle, Hannah was further blessed by God: “And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the LORD (1 Sam 2:21). God sustains those who put Him first.
When the disciples heard the sad news in the upper room that Christ would be crucified the next day, they grieved deeply. No wonder Jesus reassured them, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1).
If Christ had not died, His ministry would have remained localized. Yet after His resurrection and ascension, Christ and the Father sent the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. As Jesus explained to the disciples, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you … He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 16:7;14:26). How wonderful that we as believers have Christ with us always! Christ promised, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you ” (John 14:18).
When Paul faced his final Roman trial and the prospect of martyrdom, he also suffered a loss of friendly support: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me… ” How could Paul handle this loss? “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me” (2 Tim 4:16,17). Friend, He will never leave you or forsake you! (Heb 13:5).
I remember when friends of ours heard that their son, a missionary in China, had died suddenly of a heart seizure. When I called them to express our sympathy, they testified of God’s sustaining comfort. The memorial service was a Christ-centered tribute to their son whose motto was, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). The quality of peace and hope the family expressed was a supernatural testimony of Christ’s life. Scripture indicates that we sorrow, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13).
In the years since then, these parents have encouraged many hurting people through their counseling ministry. They exemplify 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”
Sometimes God uses bereavement to bring us to the end of our own resources. When a loved one dies or we grieve a different kind of loss, we discover our need for support and comfort. God designed us to experience abundant life by having our ultimate needs met in Him. As Augustine said, “You have made us for Yourself, oh God, and the soul of man is restless until it finds its rest in You.”
This lesson was illustrated in the life of a British pastor: It was back in 1874 that a young Church of England vicar, the Rev. J.W. Webb-Peploe, with his wife, went to a seashore place with their youngest child, then a year old. At this place, Mr. Webb-Peploe met Sir Arthur Blackwood, and when the older man learned the calling of the younger, he held his hand tightly as he asked, “Have you got rest ? … Have you rest in all your parish troubles?” “No, I wish I had,” said the young minister honestly. “I want the same,” said Sir Arthur.
. . . For three days the two met together [for prayer and study of notes from Oxford’s deeper life conference], and then Mr. Webb-Peploe’s little child was suddenly taken away by the Heavenly Father. The young earthly father took the little body home, and reached there much wounded in feeling through contact with people who did not understand his circumstances. After the funeral, he began to prepare a sermon to preach to his people. He took for his text, 2 Cor. 12:9: ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ He spent some two hours working on the sermon, and then he said to himself: ‘It is not true; I do not find it sufficient under this heavy trouble that has befallen me.’ And his heart cried out to God to make His grace sufficient for his hour of sore need and crushing sorrow.
As he wiped away the tears from his eyes he glanced up and saw over his study table an illuminated text-card his mother had given him. The words read, ‘My grace is sufficient for Thee’ — the word ‘is’ being in bold type and in a different color from all the other words … He seemed to hear a voice say to him: ‘You fool, how dare you ask God to make what is? Believe His word. Get up and trust Him, and you will find it true at every point.’ He took God at His word, he believed the fact, and his life was revolutionized. He entered into such an experience of rest and peace, such trust in a sufficient Saviour, as he never dreamed possible.
As we abide in Christ God supplies grace and comfort to heal our hearts. By radical faith we keep trusting Him and set our hope on the consolation we will have when our faith becomes sight. This confidence was expressed beautifully by an Old Testament prophet who was facing adversity and partially answered questions:
“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls–
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17,18).
How could the prophet have such grace? The next verse shows us:
“The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.”
Believer, Are you grieving some loss in your life? May you keep your eyes on Christ, Who is your source of Life and hope.
Lord, thank You for being the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. We confess with David, that in Your book all of our days were written even before our birth. Grant us wisdom to trust fully in Your grace in times of happiness as well as times of sorrow. Thank You for Your all sufficient comfort. Be to us our all in all. In Christ, amen.
 Charles Trumbull, Victory in Christ, p.78-80 (CLC). www.CLCpublications.com
Copyright 2012 by John Woodward. revised from Parts 1,2, 1998. Permission is granted to reprint this article for noncommercial use with credit given.
Biblical quotations from the New King James Version, copyrighted by Thomas Nelson.