A Time to Grieve, A Time to Dance
January 28, 2021
by Dr. J. Vernon McGee
Ecclesiastes 3 illustrates the circles of life, describing different seasons—a time to cry, a time to laugh, a time to grieve, a time to dance. Today, I want to talk to those who are grieving.
Perhaps you’ve lost someone dear. Perhaps a life circumstance has dramatically changed, either through a job or a move or a family upheaval. You feel a big gaping hole in your life, and you need something to fill it in.
May I tell you about how to fill that hole in your life with God’s comfort from “the God of all mercies”?
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. -2 Corinthians 1:3
To equip the Corinthian Christians for hard times, Paul taught them about God Himself. He is the God of all comfort and the Father of mercies. Did you know that about God? When you are convinced of the truth of God’s Word, you can live it out with enthusiasm even when you’re traveling through loss. Believe it today.
Let me remind you of God’s love, grace, and mercy. First, it’s true that God loves us. It would break our hearts if we could grasp just how much He does. But it’s sloppy theology to say God saves us by His love—we’re saved by God's grace.
We call grace unmerited favor, which means God saves us on a different basis than merit. Why? As “the Father of mercies,” God provided a Savior for us. Out of mercy, He provided what we didn’t have but totally needed.
Do you need mercy today? If you need cash, you go to a bank to get it. If you need mercy, go to the Father of mercies. When you need help, go to Him. After all, anything and everything you have today is a mercy from Him. We don't deserve any of it, but He gives it all to us freely.
Our Father is also “the God of all comfort”—comfort means “to come alongside of.” The same word describes the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, the One called to our side. When the Lord Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, He said He would send a Helper. “He will abide with you forever … I promise to come to you.” The Spirit of God is called to help you, to strengthen you, to relieve the loneliness, ease the grief, and calm your fears. He is your advocate in time of fear and trouble. He will be with you in the desperate hour of life. (See Psalm 30:10.) When our soul cries out for the Comforter, He comes alongside us. When we know for sure that God is with us in all life’s troubles, we can live by faith and not by fear.
You can test these truths in the crucible of life. God will comfort you in the hospital. He will comfort you at the funeral home when you have a loved one there. He will comfort you in any place at any time. This is His character.
You can be honest with Him. Tell Him how you feel. Tell Him you don't like what is happening to you. He knows all about it anyway.
Paul knows all about trouble and God’s comfort through it all. He told the Corinthians that when he first was in Asia, the times were so intense he didn’t think they were going to make it. “As it turned out,” he said, “it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally.” (See 2 Corinthians 1:8-10.)
God does permit Christians to suffer. He has a good reason—a very wonderful purpose in it all, though we may not see it at the time. He works it all out for the good of those He loves. He intends for it to serve a good purpose so we can comfort someone else. Regardless of what you’re going through, God gives it to you so you can share the blessing with others. Your health, your wealth, your talent or a gift, He wants you to share it with others. Each issues from the mercy of God. So does suffering. You might not have thought it was goodness and mercy to have a couple of dogs yapping at you to keep you from going to the left or to the right, but it is God's mercy that keeps us on His path, and He uses trial and difficulty for that purpose.
Life on life—that’s how Paul described the work of the ministry. We pray for each other, we help each other in trouble, we learn how to trust God from watching each other go through trouble. Our testimony in life matters. God uses it to show others how to live by faith. Suffering, in part, produces this grace. It is amazing how my experience with cancer has been a comfort to others. God permits us to have trouble so that we may be able to comfort others.
If you are a child of God, He has become your abiding place. He is also at home in you. He’s with us through all of life’s sorrows and joys, and He comforts us in our grieving.
For more comfort from Dr. McGee, download the free booklet "For Those Who Grieve."
Dr. McGee tells this true story about how God comforts us in grief:
A young husband and his little girl were grieving the sudden death of his wife. After the service, friends gathered around them and urged them to go with them to their homes for a few days. He refused, saying he’d have to face the reality of life without his wife, and he would begin at once. He took the little girl back to the lonely house where everything in it reminded him of his wife. The little girl, sensing something was wrong but not old enough to appreciate the situation, kept calling for her mother. When he finally tucked the little one in bed and he was in bed thinking she was asleep, he cried aloud in his anguish, “O God, it is dark down here.”
His little girl wasn’t asleep and began to cry, “Daddy, it is dark over here, too.” The father climbed in her bed beside her and tried to comfort her sobbing. Then she reached over in the darkness and felt for his face. “Daddy,” she said, “I can go to sleep if your face is toward me.” Being assured that he was watching her, she soon dropped off into peaceful rest.
In the dark, he thought about his daughter’s simple faith and trust in him as a father. Then he cried out again, “O God, it is dark down here, but I can bear it if I know Your face is toward me.” Soon he too was sound asleep.
In a time of darkness and emergency, the Holy Spirit confirms the sad spirit of His child. He assures him that he is a son of God and that the Heavenly Father is watching and loving him as he grieves. He is the God of all comfort.
- What about this story touches you?
- “Be honest with God. Tell Him how you feel. Tell Him you don't like what is happening to you. He knows all about it anyway. He wants you to talk frankly with Him.” Dr. McGee encourages you to be honest with God. Take some time today to go on a walk with the Lord. Pour out your heart to Him. Ask Him for His perspective and comfort.
- How might there be good coming from your suffering? What would you hope to communicate in your grief that you want others to benefit from?