My family and I recently experienced the passing of my Grandma. She battled cancer three times, and we were able to see her come to Christ near the end of her life. During her last season of cancer, I felt lots of heartache, but I was grateful for my friends who encouraged me to stay rooted in Christ.
After my Grandma died, my family and I handled grief in different ways. I saw bouts of bitterness, sadness, and joy. A kaleidoscope of emotions hovered over our heads.
During the last few days of her life, my Dad constantly prayed with my Grandma–his mom, as she experienced untold amounts of pain. And he frequently shared the gospel with other people. A part of me wondered how he stayed so calm despite the heartbreaking reality that his momma was in serious pain, and that no medical professional, nor medicinal drug could help her.
With this in mind, I encourage you to dig into God’s Word and cling to Scripture as you face grief. Jesus also wept over the loss of people. He knows our sorrow, and how deeply we need his comfort.
Here are three truths that help me keep my eyes on Christ and experience grief with peace:
1. In light of eternity, this is not the end of the story
“Since, then, you have been raised with God, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1
When it comes to death, it’s sometimes easy to lose focus on Christ and sink into despair and bitterness. It can feel like something is being taken away from you, and you can feel helpless because all you want is to have them back, here, with you, right now. When my Grandma had cancer, I prayed she would accept God’s gift of salvation. No matter the outcome of her cancer, I wanted her to feel safe, loved, and happy.
When she passed away, I wanted to hold her hand again…at least one more time. Immediately, God reminded me of my prayers. He reminded me that she was safe, held, and in the best care in heaven. That next morning, I had this image in my head: God was extending a hand to my Grandma and she accepted. This image always reminds me that she is spending her days in heaven now. Death is not the end of her story.
Perhaps your friend or family member didn’t believe in God and the reality of their eternal life seems too much to bear. I encourage you to take your thoughts to God and share with him what’s bothering you. Furthermore, talk with a mentor/pastor. Don’t be afraid or worried that people will judge, demean, or refuse to offer you comfort.
2. Keep sharing the gospel, there is more room in heaven
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.” John 14:1-3
Before my Grandma died, she did not believe in God. My family and I hoped and prayed that she would know God and surrender her life to him. She was battling aggressive cancer, and to be honest, we felt utterly helpless.
On Christmas Eve, I was able to pray with my Grandma. I’ll never forget that day. She locked her hand around mine and we shared an unspoken understanding between us–we were at the height of battle. My family and I stayed at her bedside for months, worried over her increasing physical weakness.
There were many nights that I prayed God would heal my Grandma. When I thought her physical healing and salvation were my top priority, God’s vision was much greater. The Holy Spirit led me to think about Mark 16:15, “[Jesus] said to them “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” He made it clear that the Father wants more people to know the gospel as there is more room in heaven. Just like we were bent on sharing the gospel with our Grandma, we needed to share it with others.
God’s heart for the lost reminds me that he loves our family, friends, and coworkers more than we ever will! Like our family gathered together to let my Grandma feel comforted, loved, and cared for, I believe God wants us to spiritually care for the people around us. To be willing to set aside our schedules, time, and resources to love people well. To join the body of Christ who are laying aside their needs, so people may know his love.
3. God is with you
“So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
In personal loss, my mind weaves a tangled web of emotions and thoughts. Maybe you have felt the sting of grief also, experiencing a mixture of thankfulness and sadness. My thoughts began with, “Why..” and “How could…”; but after reading the Bible, I felt more anchored and experienced peace. I can’t say that grief is a journey which ends after a couple of days, months, or years. It can be difficult because every milestone, holiday, or even visiting their favourite restaurant, can trigger different memories and emotions.
I can say that it’s important to search for God’s grace and give thanks for his presence in the midst of grief. Oftentimes, loss left me feeling abandoned and forgotten so I began searching and counting God’s gifts throughout the day–to protect my heart from fear, resentment, and ungratefulness. The act of giving thanks alleviated a lot of stress, and reminded me of God’s constant presence and provision.
I want to be clear: I’m not saying this offers a band aid to sorrow or confusion. We’ll experience difficult seasons just like any other human, but reflecting on God’s grace (such as having another day with my Grandma, healthcare, and the opportunity to pray with her), became critical. Seeing a loved one in pain is crushing, but it is not the whole story. A couple of days before my Grandma died, I asked God to give her a smile. I knew if she smiled, she could experience a little bit of joy. So I asked God to give her three smiles, and he faithfully did. I thank God for the memories of those smiles as they were a clear picture of God’s grace and love towards her.
Have you lost someone? Or do you know someone who’s lost a loved one? I encourage you to take some time to pray, journal, and connect with a friend over these truths. If you’re hoping to come alongside someone going through a loss, pray for them and let them know you’re available to listen or just grab coffee.
How did God work throughout your season of grief? What encouragement can you share to others that would benefit them? How do these truths change the way you perceive loss?