The book has been sitting on the nightstand beside my bed for probably two years, along with a small stack of other “to read” books. It was a get to in no hurry book. The title just didn’t stir me to grab it yet. But it has surprised me. The title is “Good Grief” by Dr. David A Dean.
I have read about half of it thus far. It has brought to the surface a range of emotions, partly because of the subject matter, and partly because I know all those involved. I have smiled, sometimes a happy smile and at times that knowing sad smile. I have broken down in tears I could not hold back. But through it all it has given me a personal appreciation for grief and loss.
But, rather than focus on the grief of losing a loved one I want to focus on a quote from the forward, written by Dr. Sid Bradley. He writes, “We know that the grieving person is likely experiencing a combination of different feelings such as sadness, emptiness, hurt, confusion, frustration, anger, fear, or a number of other possible emotions.”
Grieving comes with painful loss, and most of us know painful loss is not the exclusive territory of death. Our own sin can produce such grief. It would appear the grief of sin produces the same range of emotions. For the moment I want to focus on just one grieving emotional response – fear.
I see a positive and negative side to the grief of sin. On the positive side, grief that produces fear is a means of drawing us to God and seeking His forgiveness. This fear reminds us we are moral beings. It reminds us there is a reckoning that will take place before a Holy God. That fear points out the separation our sin is causing us in relationship to Christ. Though He loves us, things are strained, and it calls us to confess, and seek forgiveness.
There is a negative side to this grief and its resultant fear. It explains why in numerous ways the Bible seeks to tell us forgiveness is ours through Christ. Forgiveness is ours for the asking because of the death and resurrection of Jesus in our stead. And, the most astounding of truths, this forgiveness is instantaneous and complete. I find myself in awe of the simple words of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There is no provisional stuff or temporary certificate of forgiveness until I pass the test and get my salvation license. No, it is immediate, and there is nothing I can or have to do to realize it.
However, fear is an emotion that creeps back into our lives, or at least my life. Even after we have sought forgiveness, and claimed the promises of God there is that grief and fear like my shadow. The enemy knows how to use it to advantage as well. And with fear over past sins I get distracted, paralyzed thinking how and why would God use or want me? No wonder the New Testament reminds us many times, “Do not fear.” Grief over past sins can limit our faith, our growth, our influence. And it is the grief, the false fear that limits us, not our past sins. Those are covered by the blood. Isn’t it funny? No matter how long one has followed Jesus our feelings and faith can run counter to each other! I say all this to remind me, and to remind you, when grief strikes because of your past; when fear approaches, choose faith over fear. Live the life God has for you by faith.