Grief. It hit me as I organized the kitchen for our adoption home study. If Mom were here, she would know exactly how to organize everything. It struck me again as I exited a high school football game at my alma mater’s stadium, a place full of memories with my mom, all of which came suddenly flooding back to me.
This grief first entered my life one cold day in 2011, when my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. It heightened about a year and a half later when Mom went to be with Jesus. It’s been six years now – six years of random moments, when missing her strikes me without warning, and six years of the more obvious moments, like her birthday, when the grief collides with my memories of celebration. This is hard, a true effect of the Fall on my life. However, the Lord has been gracious to teach me so much through it all.
I am more familiar with grief than I thought I would be at 29 years old. As a college student and newlywed, I served my mom in ways I didn’t envision doing until we were both much older. I watched my mom take her last breath just a few weeks shy of my twenty-third birthday.
Grief is a Journey
When Mom first passed away, I thought we would grieve for a while, and then move on. In fact, I was somewhat relieved when the first anniversary of her death came. It marked our endurance through our year of “firsts” without her. Life has indeed moved on. God has richly blessed us with a new “normal”, but the grief has not faded. No, I am learning grief is a journey, and once we experience it, it will always be a part of our lives.
Different seasons bring us new reasons to grieve. However, with each new reason to grieve, there is a new reason for us to lean on Jesus and depend on Him. It gives us reason to trust Him and seek Him for wisdom as we navigate new waters. Each and every time, He proves himself to be the faithful and good God that He is.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 ESV)
I have also learned each person grieves differently. Some miss their loved one by visiting their grave. For me, when I really need to sit in a moment of grief, I open Mom’s Bibles and journals. That’s where I see her heart, and where I can celebrate her and miss her best.
How I grieve often looks very different from how another person would. When it comes to grief, Scripture tells us to not grieve as those with no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). As long as we grieve with the hope of the gospel, we have freedom in Christ to flesh this out differently. What a beautiful way the body of Christ is unique, yet united!
Grief is hard, but it is not wrong. In fact, we see Jesus grieve the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35). There are moments when I feel the need to grieve all I have lost in losing my mom. It is okay and even good to take these moments. Sit in the grief, hurt, cry – but always rest in the hope of the gospel.
Rest in the hope that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones, but that most importantly, we will be united with Jesus Christ, the One who gives us hope in our grief.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
(Psalm 42:5 ESV)
Grief is not the Destination
Ultimately, grief is an effect of the Fall, and these effects can bring many difficulties in our lives. Sometimes, the results are minor, like a broken lawnmower that can’t ever seem to work correctly. However, we know far too well how many consequences of the Fall are major and heavy, like death, financial strain, or relationship conflict.
I firmly believe this is one way that God keeps our hearts centered on our Home. This world, with its mishaps and painstaking sufferings, is not Home. We are citizens of a better Kingdom, an eternal one, the new creation Jesus is preparing for those who believe in Him. This Kingdom will not be tainted by the effects of the Fall, but will indeed bring things back to good, the way our Creator intended them to be.
Sometimes, we become too comfortable here, too attached to this earth and the things it has to offer. When I struggle with missing my mom and or even when I struggle against my own sin, this makes me long for my permanent Home and reminds me not to become too comfortable here. Grief reminds me that my desire is not for this world. I look forward to the day when I will be Home, and I will dwell with my Savior, rid of the pains of the Fall. Oh, how beautiful it will be to be fully restored, back in Eden!
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)
Grieving with the gospel
Truly, grieving without the hope of the gospel would be unbearable. That’s another grief-lesson I have learned—we must be bold and urgent in sharing the Good News. All people will experience grief and suffering in some way, and so the gospel must be proclaimed so others can grieve with the hope we have in Jesus! The gospel must also be shared so people will not experience the most grievous thing – being separated from God for eternity.
Our grief on this earth is genuinely real and difficult, but compared to the grief that those who choose to reject Christ will feel, our earthly grief is minor. May we spread the good news of the gospel so those around us will experience extreme joy on the day they meet Jesus, not grief! Praise Jesus for His hope! We hope in His justice and love, and this hope is what anchors our soul, both in times of grief and in times of joy.
“Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed Him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with His wounds we are healed.”
(Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV)
Grief is not kind in the moments it chooses to come. It sneaks up on me. It’s in the random moments when I am unprepared to miss my mom that I miss her, like when I am cleaning the kitchen or leaving a football game. However, as surprising as these moments can be, we can rest in knowing the Lord is not surprised. We rest in His sovereignty and presence.
Friends, He is faithfully with us in the valley, and He will continue to walk with us and ahead of us. Though I will most likely spend more time in my life grieving my mom than not, I know this worldly suffering is only temporary in light of eternity. Let’s choose to rejoice in our Savior! May we rejoice in knowing the glory He is preparing for His children will make the sufferings of this world seem light and momentary. Yes, even in the valley of grief, God is good and the things of earth will in fact grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26 ESV)
Cassie Pattillo is a wife to Jack, and mama to Hunter (4), Isaac (2), and is in the process of adopting their daughter from India. She’s passionate about biblical literacy, and writing and teaching about Scripture. She’s also a big fan of slow mornings with a cup of coffee, a good book on the beach, and Gamecock football. She loves giving Gospel-centered encouragement through writing, which you can find on her blog, Diaries of a Daughter. You can find Cassie on Twitter and Instagram, as well as Facebook.