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 (Manna 70: Discerning the Truth)
I Grieve with You in Pain
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I Grieve with You in Pain

Patricia Chen—Irvine, California, USA

Facing grief

Life has times of prosperity and times of adversity, times of joy and times of sorrow. Ultimately, everyone will, at some point, face burdens, loss, fear, or anxiety. In our darkest, most anguished hours, how do we handle our emotions?

Different people associate different things with loss and anguish. To some, it means having days when putting one foot in front of the other feels difficult; accepting the love, care and hugs of friends seems impossible. To others it means crawling into bed at night, curling into a ball, and crying, echoing pain and grief in the Psalms (e.g., Psalm 6:6, “I make my bed swim … with my tears”).

At a loss for words

Last year in August, I received news from a friend telling me that her father had suddenly passed away. I could hear my heart racing as my mind struggled to comprehend what I had just heard. The news parched my throat. I paused, unsure of what to say. Eventually, I managed to mutter, “I am so sorry to hear that.” I wanted to communicate something from my heart, but mere words seemed inadequate. I wanted to reassure her that even though I might not have understood all that she was going through, I knew that it must be awful and sorrowful beyond description.

Not long after, another sister told me that her mother had been admitted to hospital, and without any warning, passed away there. Again, taken aback by the news, I didn’t know what to say. Deep down inside, I wanted to genuinely comfort her, but no words seemed fit for someone facing a mountain of grief.

Sometimes, in moments like these, we don’t know what to say or how to comfort. We simply freeze. There does not seem to exist any magical word that can remove the mixture of feelings brewing inside someone who grieves.

experiencing grief first hand

About three months after I received the news about the sister’s mother, I personally experienced uncertainties and anxieties. A dear family member seemed to be nearing the end of his life, with his health rapidly deteriorating. Initially, I panicked. The uncertainty crippled me. I became empathetic towards the pain of the sisters who were still going through the valley of weeping—it was as if their pain were mine. I began to ponder the fear, anxiety, and sorrow of losing a loved one—indeed, the pain was deep and immense. I realized that my words seemed empty back then because I was frightened by their pain and grief.

healing through The power of prayer

This trial forced me to confront my emotions: worry, fear, grief, and anxiety. I was aware of their existence, but I didn’t know how to identify them, thinking that I was strong enough to hold everything in. Yet I knew that I desperately needed a state of inner peace separate from my circumstances and emotions.

Many people bottle up their emotions when they don’t know how to handle them. However, these uncomfortable emotions can resurface and plague us if they are not dealt with. We must seek a release that will let us adequately deal with them.

During a Bible study on Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, it dawned on me that all the fear and sorrow I felt had also been felt by the Lord Jesus when He prayed in the garden. Matthew 26:37 and Mark 14:33 both mention that Jesus became sorrowful, troubled, and “deeply distressed” in prayer. “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Lk 22:44). Lastly, Jesus prayed, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Mt 26:42). The Bible describes Jesus as someone grieved and distressed, so much so that His soul was “exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Mt 26:38).

Although Jesus was in agony, the Bible states that He entrusted everything to God in prayer: His prayer was not to avoid death but to find the strength to cope with what was coming. At that agonizing moment, Jesus turned to God and made God His focus.

With that realization, I knew I needed to pray. Isaiah 55:6 reminds us to “[s]eek the Lord while He may be found, [c]all upon Him while He is near.” Through prayer I began to understand that if I tried to solve my problems by myself, God couldn’t be glorified in my weakness—I would not be allowing God to display His might. Only through prayer can we endure agony, because it is God who strengthens us.

Indeed, turning to God in prayer and experiencing His peace was the exact prescription needed for my fear-ridden heart and mind. Philippians 4:6–7 states, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

When I started praying, even though my circumstances didn’t change, I could feel the peace of God filling my heart in a way beyond my understanding. At the end of the prayer, I felt renewed and strengthened through the power of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of any uneasy emotions, I could rest assured and be certain of a God on whom I could trust and rely.

God will not let us suffer alone. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8:26). Whether we are on the peak of the mountain or in the depths of the valley, God is with us. Through our loss ... through any loss, He is near.

Carry each other’s burdens

Sometimes, we neglect to grieve with our friends and loved ones. However, the Bible encourages us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

Through praying in the Holy Spirit, I found an outlet for my emotional responses to life’s experiences. Yes, I may feel anxious or sorrowful towards a particular incident, but I can also have joy. Joy in knowing that God can lift us up with His grace. The Bible also tells us that we should not grieve without hope (1 Thess 4:13), because Jesus has risen from the dead, and He gives the hope of resurrection to all who believe in Him.

I decided I would make every effort to sincerely empathize with those who were grieving. No pain is so deep, so long-standing, that the love of God cannot reach. No wound is too trivial for God’s love to heal.

Become a channel of healing for others

In the Gospel of John, Jesus showed Thomas and the other disciples His nail-pierced hands and spear-pierced side. Sometimes, I wonder why those marks remained on His risen body. Was it so His friends could identify Him? Surely. But I believe there is a deeper meaning: when our wounds are healed, the marks remain so that we can become testimonies for our Lord Jesus Christ. We no longer feel despair because of the marks of our pain. Rather, the healed wounds become channels of healing for others.

In the process of inner healing, Jesus will gradually set us free to be a comfort for those in need. Jesus did not rebuke men, women, and children who came to Him with their needs—whether it was hunger, illness, or other problems. He met people where they were. He fed them, healed them, and received them fully and compassionately.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; [t]he chastisement for our peace was upon Him, [a]nd by His stripes we are healed.” (Isa 53:5)

giving support in times of grief

When my sister was going through a severe sickness, a few church members visited her to comfort her and to let her know that they were there for her. Spiritually, their presence was powerful, and their persistent and intercessory prayers at her house were much more meaningful than a text or phone call.

So, to sensitively reach out and support those who are grieving, we first need to make contact. Tell them that you care and that you are praying for them; say, with sincerity, “If there is anything I can do, just let me know.”

In some situations, it might be appropriate to pray together, asking God for strength, faith, and peace. Never underestimate the power of prayer. The Bible sometimes depicts the Holy Spirit as fine olive oil. Like a lubricant, the Holy Spirit will work in the heart of the afflicted: “He heals the brokenhearted [a]nd binds up their wounds” (Ps 147:3).

God is love, and He will respond to our prayers through His word to encourage and empower us. There is healing in God’s word. Scripture can calm people. Sometimes, that’s all that people caught in crisis need.

We can also help practically by preparing meals, do grocery shopping, clean around the house etc. As important as spiritual intercession is, practical support should not be overlooked either.

Pain does not go away easily, so, we need to support those who are hurting. Every person is different and every relationship is unique; indeed, we need to respect the time and space of those who suffer. When they are ready, allow them to freely express their emotions, because they are part of a normal grief response. It is vital to help them identify their feelings and express them, instead of burying them.

When our grieving friends are ready to share, avoid making judgments or put downs. Try not to say too much; with love, a hug or a comforting hand on the shoulder can say more than words at times. Keep questions to a minimum; just listen. Even though we may not understand, we need to listen and guide.

However, while we encourage and comfort, we may also have to highlight the need to repent and change, especially, if the person’s plight is the result of his or her sins. In such a case, we need to point out to our friends that true comfort comes from repenting one’s wrong. We need to turn to God with a contrite heart and seek for His forgiveness (cf. Ps 51:17).

joy in Christ

“Nevertheless, God who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” (2 Cor 7:6)

Helping a hurting friend is both a blessing and a responsibility for Christians. With God’s grace, love, and healing power and through sincere intercessions, we can be ambassadors of comfort and hope. By sharing our loved ones’ burdens and pain, we will experience joy when our Lord Jesus Christ leads them out of the valley of darkness.


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Author: Patricia Chen
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