Walk Together Through Grief

by Judith MacNutt
Fall/Winter 2017

The holiday season is not always joyous and festive for everyone. Many of us are remembering loved ones who have passed away, dear friends that have moved away, or lost dreams and unfulfilled plans that weigh down our spirits.

When we address issues of pain and grief, sorrow and suffering, Jesus encourages us when he says, There is one coming—the Holy Spirit. He is the Comforter. From Genesis to Revelation we see a God who loves and comforts!

In Jesus’ last discourse from John Chapters 13-16, he told his disciples that he was “going away.” Because I am so relational, my first thought is, What was that conversation like for the disciples? Christ is their best friend, mentor and leader. They felt safe with him. Suddenly he says, “I am going away. Where I am going you cannot go.”

And they say, “Why can’t we go there?”

I love the response of Jesus: “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 go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7)

Jesus received the Holy Spirit at the River Jordon—the Holy Spirit came upon him and filled him. He is now telling them that the same Comforter is coming to them. He said, “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

I will not leave you alone. Don’t worry; the Holy Spirit is coming. He kept reinforcing that message until the time of the ascension, when he “ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’” (Acts 1:4-5)

We know that we have a God who is faithful. We know when we turn to him he will respond and that he is with us always. He passes his comfort on to us so that we can comfort one another in our losses. The Bible says to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) That means that whatever that friend or relative is going through, we are asked to enter into it with them, until they can return to a place of hope.

Despair arrives when all hope is gone. If I am praying with someone who seems to have lost all hope, I know that healing is needed.

One thing we have lost in our culture is the ritual of mourning. We need a period of time set aside where we can be comforted, sustained, and carried through our grief. I think President Roosevelt was the last one to wear a black armband when his mother passed away. The armband was a visible symbol to alert people to be kind to that person because he or she is going through a hard time.

Remember these scriptural principles as you walk with one another through grief and loss:

It is the Holy Spirit who brings the comfort.
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, says your God.
—Isaiah 40:1

We have a God and Savior who is not afraid of pain, loss and sorrow.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
—Isaiah 53:3

He heals the brokenhearted and brings freedom.
To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness.
—Isaiah 61:3

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.
—Isaiah 66:13

Some people feel like their season of grief is never going to be over.
God will wipe every tear from their eyes.
—Revelation 21:4

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes . . . The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.
—Job 42:10-12

Jesus is the Good Shepherd
In John 10:4, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and follow me.” We carry in our minds an image of Jesus lifting a lamb on his shoulders, or the Good Shepherd reaching over the edge of the mountain to rescue the little lamb that is caught. These images touch our hearts.

I put a section in my new book, Encountering Angels, about my experience with shepherds in Israel. While there, I learned how much shepherds love their sheep! And the sheep love their leaders. I learned that you can have five shepherds with all their sheep mingling out in the field and if one shepherd gives a certain sound, his, and only his sheep, will separate from the rest and go with him. They literally know the voice of their shepherd.

Remember these tender images when you are with someone who is going through a season of loss. And remember there are many things that we grieve other than death. Let other people know what you are going through. You can’t expect to pray grief away. I wish it was that easy. God is not a magician. But as a church, we can help people deal with loss in the context of faith and grace-filled community.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
—Galatians 6:2


Judith MacNutt  Judith MacNutt is a Founding Director and President of CHM.
 Fall/Winter 2017 Issue