This morning I was reading in one of my favorite devotional books, New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp. As a pastor I often counsel folks who are walking through various stages of grief and pain, and yes, I sometimes find myself experiencing my own seasons of grief. I always tell folks that when they grieve they face two choices–their grief will make them bitter or better. I don't know who originally coined that phrase, but I believe there is much truth in those words. The heading for today's devotion from Tripp reads...
"Grief is good when it mourns what God hates, but it's dangerous when it questions God's goodness and love."
The Bible never tells us that grief is a sinful emotion. In fact, I believe grief is proper emotion, given from God, that should be worked through in times of pain, difficulty, or sorrow. However, we must be careful to not allow our grief to lead us to a place of bitterness or resentment towards God. The truth is God hates sin–any sin and all sin! When we sin, or when we see a brother or sister in sin, grief is a proper response. Sin grieves the heart of God (Gen. 6:5-6) and sin should grieve our heart as well (James 4:9).
In his devotion today, Tripp examines Psalm 73 and the words of Asaph during his season of grief:
Asaph is mourning, all right, but it’s all the wrong kind of mourning. He is filled with grief, but it is a dangerous, angry, and accusatory grief. I’ve been there. I’ve felt Asaph’s feelings. I’ve said similar words. In a fallen world, you have reasons to grieve. You should mourn your struggle with sin. You should mourn the sorry, broken condition of the fallen world that is your home address. You should mourn corruption, injustice, poverty, pollution, and disease. It is right to mourn these things, but you had better guard your mourning. Your mourning is never neutral; you are either mourning with God, who weeps for the condition of the world he made, or you’re mourning against God, questioning his goodness, wisdom, and love. It’s tempting to do this because you hit moments when the contrast between what you are facing as a child of God and what the person next to you— a person who ignores God— is facing is almost too much to take. It seems that the good guys are being hammered and the bad guys have it easy. In the face of this reality, Asaph essentially says, “I’ve obeyed, and this is what I get?” It’s an angry charge against the goodness of God. When you don’t understand what’s going on, run to God’s goodness rather than questioning whether it exists. Say with Asaph, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (v. 26). Tripp, Paul David (2014-10-31). New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional (p. 175). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
When we think of grief, my prayer is that it will lead us to a place of worship. What is worship? Worship is a proper response to God in any circumstance of life. Worship is ascribing worth to God, the One who is worthy of all of our love, honor, glory, praise, and affections. So, in the midst of grief, may we find opportunities to worship and give glory to God. May we join Asaph in declaring, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God, YOU are the strength of my heart and my portion forever!"