[Editor’s Note: The following article addresses the topic of grief. This article is not meant to replace seeking help and wisdom from your local church along with professional medical care. Our encouragement is for you to seek counsel from your local pastor, a wise mentor in your church, a licensed counselor, and/or a medical professional. And if you or a friend are currently looking for a practical resource that will help you cling to God’s Word in a season of grief, check out the Season of Sorrow Verse Card Set designed to help you focus your mind on truth from the God of all comfort. Each card contains an encouraging statement of biblical truth that speaks to the season you’re in and a related verse or passage to meditate on to help you sow the truth of God’s Word in your heart even in difficult circumstances.]
It was Thursday afternoon, August 27, 2009, when I received the call. I don’t remember everything my dad said on the phone that day, but I’ll never forget the way I felt when he told me my brother and my brother’s girlfriend had been murdered. When I hung up the phone, I was trembling, sobbing, and couldn’t stop pacing around our apartment. In my shock and grief, I vividly remember thinking, “I need something true and unshakable right now.”
When Grief Rattles You
If you’ve ever experienced trauma or overwhelming grief, you know its effects. Suddenly, you feel like your world is spinning out of control and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. As the reality of your “new normal” sinks in, grief settles in too. Sorrow strikes while you’re washing dishes, driving the car, taking a shower, or singing songs at church. Grief feels like a constant companion who won’t leave you alone and shows up at the most inconvenient times.
Seasons of grief can overwhelm us, and in them, we long for a sense of stability, comfort, or security. If you’re like me, you might start frantically scrubbing floors, folding laundry, or making scrambled eggs. Maybe you exercise more, shop, indulge in another glass of wine, stuff your face with chocolate, or organize your closet.
Unfortunately, we often neglect to consider the comfort God’s Word provides in our grief. Scripture can feel distant from our situation, irrelevant to our pain, or just too difficult to understand. When grief persists, our good desire for security often becomes misplaced. As we grow more weary, discouraged, and despondent, we often cling to temporary sources of relief.
But dear grieving sister, God’s Word alone offers true and lasting comfort. If we want hope and security in seasons of grief, we must remain rooted in God’s Word. As we read God’s Word carefully, consistently, and confidently, we will find the sure hope and lasting comfort God’s Word provides.
Read God’s Word Carefully in Grief
Grief makes us tired, distracted, and sometimes incapable of coherent thoughts. Even the simplest tasks feel impossible. So, when we think about opening up the Bible to study or read it, we might feel discouraged before we even begin.
Yet, God invites us to come to him—even in our disjointed thoughts. He knows our frailty, but he also promises to give us life according to his Word (Deut. 32:47). If God’s Word offered King David consolation in grief, we can be sure of its comfort for us too (Ps. 119:50).
When reading your Bible feels difficult, ask the Lord to give you clarity. Pray against distractions and seek God’s help for understanding (Ps. 119:18). Resist the urge to flip through your Bible and search for a quick pick-me-up verse to address your sorrow. There are many verses that will speak directly into our grief. But, we might come across passages that feel confusing.
After my brother’s death, verses about God’s sovereignty were often hard to receive—God could have prevented his murder. I needed to exercise careful diligence in order to read God’s Word in its proper context. Yes, God was sovereign over my brother’s tragic death (Isa. 45:7–9), but he always exercises his sovereignty in conjunction with his love (Rom. 8:28). His Word invited me to trust him, even in loss.
A careful approach to God’s Word will help us rightly receive and appropriately apply God’s Word in seasons of grief.
Read God’s Word Consistently in Grief
In the midst of grief, God’s Word may feel unhelpful or just “not enough” in our sorrow. Anger, doubt, and complacency are legitimate struggles for grieving souls. Satan would love nothing more than for us to shut our Bibles and resist God’s comfort in our grief. One way to remain steadfast amidst this temptation is to maintain consistency in our Bible intake.
Consistency doesn’t mean perfection or in-depth study. You don’t even have to use a journal (although I find this particularly helpful when I’m grieving). Reading God’s Word consistently might mean listening to Scripture on your favorite Bible app. Maybe you’ll read the same psalm every day for three weeks. Perhaps your sorrow-filled heart needs to simmer in the Gospel of John. I always find solace in a slow and steady journey through the Psalms.
I know it can feel trite to have someone tell you to read your Bible when you’re grieving. But, I’d invite you to trust the Holy Spirit to use his Word (2 Tim. 3:16–17). I’m confident he will provide the same comfort he’s given to me as you consistently engage with his Word in your grief.
Read God’s Word Confidently in Grief
Tragedy, loss, pain, and death don’t just rattle our hearts. Sometimes, grief rattles our faith. But God’s Word is true and unshakable (Ps. 119:160). Even when our world feels unstable, uncertain, and our grief is overwhelming, God—and his Word—will never fail (Isa. 40:8). His truth remains (Ps. 119:89). Not just for the bigger story of God’s purposes in this world. God’s Word remains true for you.
We can open God’s Word in our struggling faith and say, “Lord, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). When we feel the darkness of grief pressing in, we can grab our souls by the collar, yank open our Bibles, and say, “God gave me his Word because he loves me. I can trust him to do his work.” Then watch and wait with confidence for his Word to accomplish its purposes, even in your grief (Isa. 55:11).
The Gifts in Grief
Shortly after I got off the phone with my dad on that summer afternoon, I grabbed my Bible and plopped down in the nearest chair. Years of regular Bible reading had taught me of its true and unshakable hope. As the tears ran down my face, I found refuge in God’s living and active Word (Heb. 4:12).
I’ve experienced various types of grief over the years, not just my brother’s death. Sometimes grief will resurface and linger. I often wish grief wasn’t part of my story and I long for Jesus to return, remove the sorrow, and wipe away my tears (Rev. 21:4). But do you know what? In some mysterious and grace-infused way, God uses seasons of grief to draw me closer to him and his Word. Affliction helps me to learn God’s Word more fully (Ps. 119:71), and loss enables me to know Christ more intimately (Phil. 3:8).
May you also experience these gifts as you remain in God’s Word through seasons of grief.
Meet the Author
Lauren Washer is a wife, mom of six, and a lifelong student of God’s Word. She’s actively involved in the women’s ministry of her local church through teaching the Bible and leading small groups. She learned how to study the Bible at Columbia International University, where she received a B.S. in Bible and Intercultural Studies. When she’s not playing LEGOs, changing diapers, or helping her older children navigate preteen emotions, she enjoys reading, cooking, and getting a full night of sleep. You can find more of her writing on Instagram or her website.