“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” —1 Thessalonians 4:13
Many people focus on the first part of this verse: “do not grieve.”
Some have the misconception that to grieve is wrong, particularly if we are strong believers. If we have our hope in Jesus, we shouldn’t grieve!
But that belief is taken out of context of the second part of the verse in Thessalonians. Paul was writing to some of the people of the church in Thessalonica who believed that death was final for believers and that they would not see Christ’s return. Death did not have the final word because of Christ. That had hope that this was not the end because of Christ, but they could still grieve believers who had died.
As Granger E. Westberg writes in his book, Good Grief:
But religious faith…has never said that a truly religious person does not grieve. What it has said is that there are good ways and bad ways to grieve and that what a person considers to be of most importance in life will definitely affect the way he or she grieves.
We often think of grief after someone has died. But grief is not only losing a person because of death. It’s losing anything or anyone that mattered to you, anything that was important to you.
Maybe you’ve heard this before, but it deserves to be repeated: grief is good. Grieving is a long process, one with no endpoint.
Here, many of us are familiar with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler’s 5 “stages” of grief: Anger, Bargaining, Denial, Depression, and Acceptance. I’m purposely writing them in a different order so that you know your grieving process is unique to you and very personal. You will grieve differently than others. And that’s ok!
We don’t just get over a loss. We need time to move through the loss in a healthy way so we can grow around that grief. We grow despite the grief.
We will all lose someone or something really important to us—whether it’s a loved one, relationship, health, or security. When we do, we feel life is not good. Not at all. It’s normal to grieve and respond to that loss. It’s normal to not be positive all the time and practice gratitude all the time. It’s good to walk through all the feelings that accompany the loss many times over.
Grieving is good. A healthy way to process and heal after loss.
And we should let others grieve too.
Throughout the Bible, we see that God grieved. He responds to His people’s rebellion and sin. We see that Jesus grieved. He responds to the people and situations around him.
1 Thessalonians tells us not that we should not grieve. It tells us that we should grieve as those with hope. We have hope in Jesus. A hope to be transformed and made new. A hope that this is not the end of the story.