Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. James 5:10-11
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knows them that trust in Him. Nahum 1:7
My precious friend who is struggling in your grief, I am writing to you today, and I want to capture the tenderness of our Savior as I relate a hard truth. Death has shattered your secure world. Everywhere you turn, the imprint of a missing life is visible to your eyes and to your heart. You are exhausted, but it is too painful to be still—there is too much to think about, and it is better to run until you drop into bed for a few hours of fitful sleep. When you wake up in the night, you try to form words to speak to God, but you have nothing to say.
This is one of those times in life when the half truth of the world’s philosophy is wholly wrong, and you must choose to reject what sounds like a path to healing, but its end is destruction. You must make a decision to walk with God in grief and reject an immediate focus and goal of feeling good by changing your outward circumstances. You must believe God with your whole heart that you can live with unmet needs and still experience the full joy of the Lord.
James instructs us to take the prophets for our examples of suffering affliction. It is almost impossible for me to comprehend such a command when my entire life has been bombarded with two hour episodes of happily ever after. Just suppose for a moment that we took James seriously and considered the prophets as our examples. Jeremiah declared, “Before me continually is grief and wounds” (Jeremiah 6:7). Out of his weeping for a nation that hated him comes great assurance—“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” Jeremiah 33:3). We all know the promise from Jeremiah’s Lamentation, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” Lamentations 3:22-23). But the context of that promise in the preceding twenty verses is gut wrenching horror. How could Jeremiah speak such immortal words out of a place so consumed with grief?
Jeremiah understood how to walk with his God who loved and cared for him in an upside down world. I love his words from Jeremiah 31:3, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”
Jeremiah knew such deep love from his God in the midst of war and destruction all around him. He heard God calling him as a child—“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5), and he never stopped listening and obeying. He believed God’s promise, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare [peace] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV), though the promise seemed impossible in his circumstances.
I hear God calling me too. He tells me His great and precious promises are for me if I am willing to take for my example the prophets. The prophet Nahum assures me that God knows me—really knows me inside out. I will seek the Lord and His strength; I will seek His face continually (I Chronicles 16:11). Satan’s will tell you that you are alone. There is no hope. You will never be able to eat or think or sleep normally again. You just have to get over it and move on. These are LIES. Let’s walk in grief as the prophets of old, and find true healing by putting our full trust in the only One who has conquered death. If Jeremiah could speak of everlasting love, and hope, and great faithfulness in his upside down life, we can too!