Most of us are a mixture of emotions and experiences. The good, the bad, and the ugly wash over us regularly. The key issue is what we do with these feelings and experiences.
How does being a believer shape the way in which we view our world, especially when we’re faced with worries and grief?
In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells the story of looking forward to her first railway journey. Although her trip was not for many weeks, she would regularly go to her father and ask him if he had the tickets. He would tell her over and over that he did. She realized that her problem was a lack of trust in her dad; she did not believe he would take care of everything. She was worrying that he would lose her ticket and that somehow she would be without it on the day she was to travel. In that lesson, she learned that God gives us the ticket on the day we make the journey and not before. He, of course, is much better at keeping it safe than we are.
In our pilgrimages through heartache, disappointment, the loss of loved ones, and personal failures, we can learn that this is indeed true. Therefore, we must trust him.
On the day we make the journey from time to eternity, if we know Christ, we know he will give us the ticket. If that day is today, then the ticket is on the way. If not, then what is the use in lying awake and letting our emotions control us and our worries crowd in on us? We are not at the mercy of arbitrary, impersonal forces; we are in the hand of our loving God. That brings us to the first reminder that can bring peace during times of trouble.
1. Our Times Are in God’s Hands
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! (Ps. 31:14–16)
We are not at the mercy of arbitrary, impersonal forces; we are in the hand of our loving God.
“My times are in your hand” is a six-word affirmation to remind Christians that, despite disasters and difficulties, we’re under the care of the Almighty God.
In the opening verses of Psalm 31, it’s apparent that David is in anguish. As we read on, we seem to find him in a position of assurance just a few verses later, only for him to return immediately to a state of distress. This cycle of pain and joy is not an unusual experience for the Christian pilgrim. In fact, the recurrence of disappointment and discomfort is fairly common along the path of faith.
But God says to us, Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden. Come to me with all your burdens, fears, panics, anxieties, and heartaches. Take my yoke upon you. Live underneath my loving rule, because my yoke is easy and my burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls, forever (see Matt. 11:28–30).
This is our security. Our times—short or long, rich or poor, sad or happy—are in his hand. He will give us good works to do each day, and then on our last day, he will bring us safely through to the place where our days are infinitely long, unimaginably rich, and unutterably happy.
2. The Bible Acknowledges Our Emotions
Grief is an example of an emotion that can overwhelm us to the utmost. You may know this experience all too well. I remember its first intrusion into my life when I was a teenager and my mother died. Nothing could ever be quite as it had been before.
You do not have to live long as a believer to discover that faith does not insulate us from feelings like grief and the fear of it. Paul wrote about the near-death experience of his friend Epaphroditus: “Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (Phil. 2:27).
The thought of losing Epaphroditus broke Paul’s heart. He understood that death was not the end, but he also recognized that in experiencing loss, or even in the prospect of it, there is true sorrow.
Grief is hard because something has been lost, and certain joys are now irretrievably gone. But we also know that grief is a reality to which Scripture plainly speaks—a reality that will one day be redeemed by a far greater joy. And we know that grief is a reality with which our Savior is personally acquainted.
3. Jesus Enables Grief and Hope to Coexist
As Jesus stood at the grave of his friend Lazarus, he—the second Person of the Trinity—grieved with those who had gathered there. Though he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, he still wept because he was sincerely sad. The mystery in this scene is that Jesus so identified with our humanity that he shed genuine tears at the loss of his beloved friend (John 11:33–35).
Grief is a reality with which our Savior is personally acquainted.
Although the Bible introduces us to the reality of Christ’s victory over death and the grave, it doesn’t call us to some kind of glossy, heartless triumphalism. Rather, as Alec Motyer writes, “tears are proper for believers—indeed they should be all the more copious, for Christians are more sensitively aware of every emotion, whether of joy or sorrow, than those who have known nothing of the softening and enlivening grace of God” (90).
The fact that our loved ones who died in Christ are now with him lightens but does not remove the anguish of loss and loneliness. We continue to long for the day when such pain will have ceased.
Until that day comes, we can find comfort in knowing that Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3) as we look to him as our example, as we see that he is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), and as we look to him for our eternity. Knowing this is what enables hope to reign in our hearts, even as very real worries and grief exist in our lives.