Acquainted With Grief

A few weeks ago during a particularly honest conversation with my mom, in which we were both sharing about the grief we were experiencing as we are transitioning our family overseas, she shared this simple, yet profound thought with me, “Jesus himself is acquainted with grief – that’s what the Bible says.”

In eighth grade, I memorized Isaiah 53 in the King James Version with my video school Bible class (yes, there was such a thing back then – VHS and all!). We started out by reading the chapter every day, and then gradually were able to put the Bible down and recite from memory this rich chapter. There’s much to be gleaned from this prophetic passage detailing Jesus’ coming to and living on earth, for the essential purpose of being “crushed” by the Lord (v. 10) in order to bear our iniquities and account righteousness to us (v. 11). Amazing! And here is why we celebrate Christmas, in a nutshell – in great praise and honor for Jesus’ coming to earth.

Lately, I’ve been pondering this part of this passage:

“He is despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: we hid as it were our faces from him, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” 

Isaiah 53:3-4, KJV

Taking a quick look into this passage, we know that the suffering Jesus experienced on earth was that which results from sin – individual sin, corporate sin, a world marked deeply and irrevocably by sin. Jesus had full human experience, all the grief and the sorrow and the suffering we likewise experience, but yet he lived a perfect life. This is an essential part of solid doctrine on the incarnation – Jesus is fully man and fully God. In order to completely accomplish redemption for humankind, Jesus must have lived a human life. In order to completely accomplish redemption for humankind, Jesus must fully be God, because only God can accomplish such a task.

This world is marked by grief and suffering and sorrow, so much, we know, from our own lives, from the news, from the lives of our friends and family. Jesus likewise experienced these griefs, and his suffering accentuates the consequences that sin brings into the world, because he experienced this grief without even sinning. Even more so, he did not just experience our grief and suffering, he “hath borne” them – meaning, he took them upon himself, invited them into his life, “carried” our sorrows. This was not a passive experiencing, but rather a very active one, in which Jesus chose in full obedience to the Father to take upon himself the sins of humankind and experience all of the grief, sorrow, and suffering which accompanies it.

Lately, I’ve had these lingering questions: what do I do with my grief? Where do I put it? How do I do it well? What can I learn from it? There is much yet for the Lord to teach me about this process, but something I have been thankfully clinging to is this: Jesus is acquainted with grief. He knows these very feelings, he has felt these very sorrows, during his life here in this broken world where death comes to all. Grieving, because of distance, because of lost time, because of lost relationship, is not unknown to God, but rather very familiar to him. In my grief, I can sit at the feet of Jesus and know that he is a friend to me. I can look to God as my loving Father, dwell in his shelter and find a shield in his faithfulness (Ps. 91:1-6). I can take great comfort in the God of all comfort, “who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God… for as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:4-5). Not only this, but I can rejoice that through this grief “the tested genuineness of [my] faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

And while finding friendship in Jesus, resting in God’s comfort and shelter, and the refinement of my faith are unbelievable gifts, that’s not all. There’s also hope. Because, “out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous” (Is. 53:11). Because Jesus was acquainted with grief, because he bore the suffering of humanity and ultimately death on the cross so that some might be made righteous on account of him, we have much hope. Because he has already paid the penalty for our sin and in him we are found righteous before God. And because one day, he is going to make all things new. He has already said that he will right all that is wrong with this world: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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” (Rev. 21:3-4).

And so, in this season where grief is pronounced, I am reminded that I can draw even nearer to the heart of God, for he is my dearest friend, my strong shelter, my ultimate comfort, and the source of my great hope. Merry Christmas to you!

originally published on December 21, 2016

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