The names of the five doors
Grief is our response to loss. In most instances death is the principle impetus for grief. However, humans can experience grief because of any kind of loss, whether a person dear to us or life circumstances that hold a special place in our lives. People grieve over a move, job loss, a situational change, divorce, retirement, financial stress, church life, holidays, a change of habits, or any loss that interrupts the norms of life. In my experience, and those of many others who have confirmed them, the Christian experience of grief is accessed through five doors. They are---
The Door of Emotion
Jesus wept when he learned about Lazurus' death. When the storm rocked the
boat in which the disciples traveled the Sea of Galilee with Jesus they were
stricken with fear. Generally, the tragedy of loss triggers emotions in us humans,
even the man Jesus Christ. These emotions can can be shock, anger, deep
sadness, disbelief, anguish, isolation, denial, and many other crises of faith.
Christians have emotions too and it's difficult to paint them with a broad brush.
So, my experience has been that in the moment of loss, emotion of some kind is
our first response.
The Door of Grace
Tragic circumstances in times of loss usually evoke an emotional response. In the
death of our son, and other experiences of loss, these emotions are usually
immediate and intense. Brian's death devastated us and left us totally heart
broken. As believers, however, Harriet and I soon discovered avenues of grace
that our Father brought to us as we began the journey of grief. They were what
evangelist Tim St. Clair, when preaching a revival at our church, called "grace
ambulances". God used people, circumstances, words of comfort, and his abiding
presence to mediate his grace in our tragedy. Paul reminded the Corinthians of
what God had said to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made
perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV). We also found great comfort in
the promise "But he gives more grace" (James 4:6, ESV). In times of sorrow and
discomfort we must look through the emotional upheaval to note his gifts of
grace for our suffering.
The Door of Reality
At some point in the grieving process the reality of what has happened
overwhelms us. For Harriet and I it was seeing Brian in a casket. One Bible verse
seemed to guide us in this direction. Paul wrote, "Look at what is before your
eyes" (2 Corinthians 10:7, ESV). The emotional stress, even when mediated by his
grace, may blind us to what is actually taking place. But, with his grace as our
guide we can and must face the reality of the situation.
The Door of Promise
Scripture resounds with the promises of God. On the night of Brian's death we
prayed for a promise to be our solid truth during the ordeal of his death and our
months, perhaps years of grieving. God gave us 1 Peter 5:6: "Humble yourselves,
therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." This
promise provided the assurance that he would lift us beyond the grip of grief in
his time. It comforts us still. So, we prayed for a spirit of humility as he fulfilled his
promise to us. Another promise strengthens that assurance. "He who calls you is
faithful; he will surely do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV). There are hundreds of
promises in His Word. Ask for one. Live by it.
The Door of Peace
The secular grief cycle typically concludes with grieving people accepting what
has happened. Christian people, however, have greater assurance than mere
acceptance of the horror that has rocked their world. Jesus promised peace. He
said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I
give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John
14:27). We should pray for what Paul promised, "And the peace of God, which
surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus"
(Philippians 4:7, ESV). It is a prime difference in worldly grief and that experienced
by believers. His peace should be our final stage.
So, there are five doors to Christian grief. Thankfully, we have discovered his peace even though the "due time" promised by Peter hasn't arrived. We are still grieving. His murder is still unsolved. But, we trust God, rely on his promises, and as a result, are experiencing his peace.