by James Alexander, July 1998
A Ministry to and with the Grieving
On 17 July 1996, my son died in the crash of TWA Flight #800. Since then the Lord has continued to teach me Biblical grieving. The Bible has much to say about grief in the life of a Christian, but many of us even after years of study and ministry have not understood the importance of grief in the life of a Christian. We have absorbed much of the thinking of our culture in making temporal happiness the goal of our lives. As our society continues to plunge toward destruction, the American dream will die and the pain of grief and heartache will force itself upon us. Many will become bitter, angry, and resentful at not achieving the utopia of the American success story. We must now seek a Biblical view of life, suffering and death. The Bible teaches that grief is an essential part of living in this fallen world, and that as Christians we are to take the grief apportioned for us as a divine means of growth in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Grief is to become a mighty force within for our sanctification and service in God’s kingdom. When we seek to get over our grief or to bury our grief then grief becomes destructive. Even though grief hurts, crushes, brings unrelenting pain and will not end until glory, you and I must seek God’s help to take the grief that He gives to us as a God-given trial to enable us to learn the ways of our God.
When one that you love dies, you find that you are completely helpless to change the fact of death. You agonize wanting to make it not true, but it is true. This helplessness in the face of death brings you to see your utter dependence upon God for life and eternity. When living in utter dependence upon God through Jesus Christ, you begin to find new strength to go on in service of your King.
Has your grief become a means of growth in grace? Has it brought you to a more complete dependence upon the Lord? Or is your grief encased in a secret compartment of your mind? Is it becoming a root of resentment and bitterness? Come with your grief to the throne of grace and mercy. Jesus will help you!
The Psalmist says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” (Ps. 42:5) In 1 Corinthians 13:7, the Apostle tells us that love “hopes all things.” Hope arises in the heart as we are transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Grief arises from the consequences of living in a world of sin and death. While grief will not be completely done away with until Christ returns, the hope of the gospel begins now to bring relief and increasingly brings comfort to the grieving. Hope is Biblical optimism looking the miseries of this life in the face and through faith seeing the end of the present miseries because of the victory wrought out by Christ. When “we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Rom 8:25)
As you grieve daily, so you will find comfort daily through the hope of the gospel. In Psalm 42, the Psalmist exhorts himself in a time of depression and discouragement to hope in the Lord. As you feel the sharp edge of grief’s knife cutting relentlessly, exhort yourself to hope in the Lord. Ask our gracious Father to minister His comfort to you. He will not fail you.
Scripture for meditation: Psalm 42
The Griever’s Question
How can a loving God allow Christians to suffer so much grief and heartache? In Isaiah 55:9, God says, “So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” You will never understand fully because only God knows all things. Those in heaven have perfect human understanding, but not infinite understanding. Scripture does, however, give you sufficient understanding of suffering and grief. You can be assured that a loving God rules all things for the good of his children. With this assurance your suffering and grief will teach you to trust God more fully, to live the gospel more c0nsistently, and to be more heavenly minded. Furthermore, through your grief, you become aware of the many others who suffer and are thus enabled to compassionately reach out to them. You must also remember that now you see from a short-term perspective, but one day, perhaps soon, you will in the long-term perspective see the perfection, beauty, and glory of all of God’s ways.
Being Dead They Still Speak
“The gold loses nothing by the removal of its dross, and our faith loses nothing by the dissipation of its apparent force. Faith may apparently lose, but it actually gains. It may seem to be diminished, but it is not truly diminished. All is there that was worth having. You can now tell how much was solid, and how much was sham; for had that which has failed you been real faith, it would not have been consumed by any trial through which it has passed. You have lost the froth from the top of the cup, but all that was really worth having is still there. It must be so, for as faith is not born of earthly things, neither can earthly things kill it, nor take from it one true particle.” – C. H. Spurgeon
– In memory of Matthew James Alexander by his father, James Julian Alexander
Grief with Hope is a ministry established by James Alexander in memory of his son Matthew James Alexander, who died in the crash of TWA Flight #800, July 1996. Grief with Hope ministers to and with the grieving through the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship.