Leaning into Grief – Part II

Jimmy Dodd |

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  Psalm 27:1

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is pain, grief and death all around. Today, if you are hurting, you need to be assured that God weeps with you. Jesus is not unaware. He is not a stoic, distant, rigid, isolated God. Rather, God is fully aware! He is close, active and individually caring for every person.

Jesus is unique. He is matchless. He individually distinctively responds to every one of his children. What a truth! Jesus knows our particular challenges. He is at work, even now, uniquely working in my life to orchestrate everything for my ultimate good and for his ultimate glory. Because of the distinctive nature of every person, Jesus responds to grief in a uniquely individualized approach.

In John 11 Mary and Martha are grieving their brother Lazarus who has died and been in the tomb for four days. Jesus walks into a setting of pain, tears and grief. According to Jewish thinking, the soul of the deceased hung around the body for three days. And yet, Jesus purposely waited until the 4th day to show up. To those who grieved, the situation was utterly hopeless by the time Jesus showed up. And as we know, Jesus specializes in bringing light to hopelessly dark situations.

As Jesus approaches Bethany, he first encounters Martha. She hurries out to meet Jesus and says (v. 21) “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha expresses the heart of every believer after facing disappointment, “Lord, if you had only been here…”. There may be an accusatory tone in her voice. Jesus, where were you? In essence she is saying, “Jesus, if you would only have followed the script I wrote for you, my brother would be alive!”

This is the heart of many. Where were you God when my loved one died? Where were you when my marriage dissolved? Where were you when my husband cheated on me? Where were you when my father was abusing me? Where were you when my parents divorced? Where were you when my children rejected the values we worked so hard to instill in them? Where is the Lord in the most painful of days? Yes, we are his children but that does not mean that we are not allowed to express our pain to the Lord. Some have bottled up feelings and anger towards the Lord for years. Perhaps today is the day that your heart needs to be expressed before Him.

Jesus speaks truth when he tells her that her brother Lazarus will rise again. When Martha assures Jesus that she knows this, Jesus makes the great declaration, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

We have a great God who loves us, delays and stays away and then comes and completely enters into our sorrow.

A short time later Jesus encounters Mary who falls at Jesus’ feet and amazingly makes the exact same statement. Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus responds by weeping with Mary. The word here means that tears ran down the dusty cheeks of Jesus. We have a great God who loves us, delays and stays away and then comes and completely enters into our sorrow. This is the great mystery of the Lord!

Two identical statements. To Martha he responds with truth and to Mary, Jesus responds with tears. Sometime grief needs to be met with truth. Jesus is our Master Teacher. He is the one who holds absolute sway over truth. Other times, grief needs to be met with tears. Jesus is our shepherd. He promises to be with us in even the darkest valley. With Martha, Jesus speaks and with Mary he is speechless. With Martha, Jesus is bold and direct and with Mary he is broken and trembling. With Martha, Jesus confronts her mind while with Mary he enters into the flow of her heart.

Too often we lack perspective. Do I judge Jesus’ love by my circumstances? Or do I judge my circumstances by Jesus’ love? Ask the Lord Jesus to grant you the wisdom to know how to lean into grief. Ask the Lord to grant you the wisdom to know when to respond to grief with truth and when to respond to grief with tears. In many cases, it is a combination of the two. follow the example of Jesus, the perfect combination of the ministry of truth and tears. When we lean into grief, we will need both.

More Resources

In Coronavirus and Christ, John Piper invites readers around the world to stand on the solid Rock, who is Jesus Christ, in whom our souls can be sustained by the sovereign God who ordains, governs, and reigns over all things to accomplish his wise and good purposes for those who trust in him. What is God doing through the coronavirus? Piper offers six biblical answers to that question, showing us that God is at work in this moment in history.



VIDEO: Trusting God in Difficult Times – Tim Keller’s messages of encouragement are an incredible source of encouragement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trusting God in Difficult Times is a series of short devotionals that speaks to our deepest questions during the pandemic.



Resilient Church Leadership Resources – This is the premier website to deliver resources and tools to pastors in the midst of the pandemic.


Strengthen Your Church

Strengthening your church, for us, begins by serving you, the pastor!