Many days I wake up and my first conscious thought is, It wasn’t supposed to be this way. My grief punches me in the gut and gnaws at me throughout the day.

I know I’m not alone in this. How many friends do I have who are grieving? One whose husband just departed too early to heaven, several whose marriages are an unhappy toil, some whose babies slipped away well before their time, many who are weathering storms of lost jobs, unexpected moves, disintegrated friendships, or debilitating illness. Life is hard.

Sometimes grief is public and everyone knows our struggle. Other times (as in our case) grief is private because of those involved. As I’ve shared our loss with a few close friends, I’ve had to choose my words carefully. What should I say about my grief and disappointment? What’s true? Where will my heart rest in the weariness? 

For the last several days, Romans 12:12 has been my north star. In the preceding verses, Paul reminds us that we’re living sacrifices and that life is difficult. In the midst of all that’s hard, he says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” 

Joyful in Hope

God isn’t through with our stories of grief. He’s doing thousands of things we can’t even imagine, because his thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isa. 55:8–9). We can’t follow his wisdom and knowledge and path (Rom. 11:33), but we can know they’re for our good (Rom. 8:28). We know his character—trustworthy and true. 

We rejoice in the reality of the resurrection, the hope of heaven, and the ultimate victory we have in Christ. He has disarmed the powers and authorities of the world and, through his cross, we triumph over them (Col. 2:15). We can be joyful in hope because, just as the Father didn’t end the story with his Son in the grave, so our stories don’t end with the loss we currently feel.  

Patient in Affliction 

Nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38). We can be patient in our suffering, knowing we won’t be torn from God’s hands. Our afflictions are, in reality, light and momentary and are “achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17). 

This isn’t a time for comparing our loss to another’s. We are each the Lord’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10), called to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:1–2). We can be patient in affliction because God “is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). 

Faithful in Prayer

Perhaps our primary role in navigating grief is to “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). The Lord himself says we may come to him with confidence (Heb. 4:16). Jesus told his disciples they “ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Being faithful in prayer means giving ourselves over to it daily, routinely. 

When we pray, we remember God is God and we are not. We recall his power, his resurrection, his ability to do more than we could ever ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20–21). In prayer we’re reminded of his goodness and his promises to never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). We can be faithful in prayer because we know God is for us—and if he gave us his own Son, we can trust him to work in our current trials too (Rom. 8:31–32).  

These verses give welcome counsel when I don’t know what to do with my grief. They orient my mind and remind my heart of what is true. Because of Jesus—because of the gospel of grace—I can be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. 

Editors’ note: A version of this article appeared at jenoshman.com