Grief is the fixed cost of human attachment. If you love well, you will hurt. Death disrupts every domain of life: our interactions with others, our perceptions of the world, our beliefs about God, and even how we see ourselves. Our minds glitch, trying to sync the unwelcome news with our working model of reality.
In the midst of such profound change, the way a Christian grieves can honor God, attesting to the hard truth that He is still good even when life hurts. Bookmark the fact that God can use even this pain to deepen our capacity for love. Sorrow carves the chalice that will one day be filled with joy.
5 Bible Verses about Death and How to Grieve Well
Meanwhile, what does God’s Word say about grief and how to grieve well? Let’s look at five Bible verses about death to shape our response to the inescapable.
A Tender King
“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18
A heavy heart can feel overwhelming and disorienting, especially at first. The grief process involves denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but instead of a five-course meal, they come at you like a casserole.Seeing an old photo album, clearing out a closet, “memorializing” your loved one’s Facebook page, retelling “What happened?!” to friends, and countless other triggers can throw you. Funeral logistics and tenuous conversations strain financial and emotional resources. If your loved one took his own life, you face “complicated bereavement” as you grapple with the trauma of intent as well as the pain of loss.
One day you awake feeling surprisingly okay, keeping pace with others in real time – the next, not so much. You may forget appointments, rage at other drivers, pick up self-destructive habits or otherwise act out of character. Feeling abnormal is normal. Is there no way through this morass?
There is a way – a brave approach Jesus modeled for us. Come to your God. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with His Father to find any other way than crucifixion to save humanity, but in the end, Jesus followed the Father’s plan. Jesus prayed for His direct disciples and future believers, asking His Father to sanctify us by the truth of His Word.
Days later, hanging from the cross, the Son cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” so you would never need to utter those desperate words. You were always on His mind.
When ambushed by the riptide of grief, keep Jesus always in your mind. Remember that, unlike every other love, the risen Lord will never leave you. When your usual protocols for interacting with reality feel fuzzy and your senses play tricks, affirm what you know to be true. Jesus has gone to great lengths to be Emmanuel, here with you.
Grief is Temporary
The intensity of grief can terrify us because trauma seems to stop the clock. Without that gauge of progress, you wonder if the pain will ever let up. The first-time mom in the throes of childbirth calls for frequent updates to know “if we’re there yet,” eager to push the baby out. Knowing the searing contractions are almost over helps her focus and even treasure the task at hand. We need a common reference point from which to relate.
“Then after you’ve suffered for a little while, the God of all grace Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” – 1 Peter 5:10
Peter likewise coaches believers to keep two browsers open, as it were. Relate to others in the daily grit, but also zoom out to survey God’s redemptive plan. Suffering is the only sacrifice we offer to God that’s limited to earth in its present condition. Praise and worship will continue in God’s direct presence, but pain only pertains to now. In His time, God will personally see to your restoration.
The Final Foe
“Jesus wept.” – John 11:35
The Gospel of John records one of the most poignant Bible verses about the death of a loved one. Shortly after Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem, Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus, sent word to Him that “the one you love is ill,” but He tarried before coming. Martha meets Jesus on the way, distressed that He’s too late.
“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died!” Mary soon reaches Jesus, and collapses at His feet with the same understandable lament. Jesus does not rebuke the sisters for their exasperated “if onlys,” but hears them out while holding His own counsel.
Eventually, the collective sorrow hits Him full force, and He breaks down. He who knew remotely that Lazarus had died now “groans in His spirit” before following the women to their brother’s grave.From His example, foreknowledge of death does not inoculate a person from pain. Whether a loved one takes months or milliseconds to die, the severing of relational bonds hurts regardless, rendering comparisons to others’ grief (e.g. “At least you had time to say goodbye”) inapplicable.
In contrast to the dualism of Jesus’ day that regarded spirit as good and the body as evil, the Son of God allowed Himself to be “deeply moved” publicly by His friends’ grief. Any reputable ascetic would consider the sight of Jesus crying as uncouth, even scandalous. Herein lays the mystery of the gospel, which Paul calls “foolishness to the perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Jesus entered our world to redeem all that the Fall had corrupted. Likely sensitized to death and dying as He concluded His earthly ministry and readied Himself for His own execution, Jesus could have withdrawn emotionally to protect Himself from even more hurt. For His friends’ sake, He plunged right into the churning chaos of sorrow, and He wept.
The Sad are Happy?
“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4
This verse seems a paradox, like the adage from Ecclesiastes: “Better to be in a house of weeping than a house of mirth.” Yet as parents of a bride can attest, happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive, and mourning involves more than feeling sad.
To mourn is to face the raw reality that without our permission, death yanked away a pillar of support from life as we knew it and there is no going back to the “way we were.” We must begin to craft a new normal. Laughter can mask an aching heart that longs for—yet fears—comfort. In contrast, how inspiring to see a believer engage the vulnerability of genuine sorrow over a loved one now gone.
The Creator gave us a poignant gift in tears. They can melt the frigid barriers between people, sometimes even strangers. Crying releases endorphins, lowers blood pressure, and helps promote sleep.
Tears from emotion differ chemically from the tears elicited by debris or the fluid that normally lubricates the eye for blinking. Weeping rids the body of stress hormones, providing a natural detox. Americans cry an average of twice a month, but for all the benefits tears bring, maybe we should cry more often.
Death, the last enemy, wrenches from us those we have held, teased, respected, and cheered on—the humble and hostile both return to dust. We hate the separation with good reason; we are built to live in relationship with God and others. Mourning is evidence that our connection was palpable and the loss equally real. Weeping also signals to others our need, implicitly allowing them to comfort us.
How to Grieve with Hope
“Do not grieve as others do, who have no hope…” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13
In this Scripture about death, Paul elucidates how following Christ changes the new believers’ approach to dying. Specifically, Christians have legitimate hope—not air-brushed wishfulness, but firm, evidence-based trust. Jesus went all in. He became incarnate as a baby, lived a sinless life, was tortured, died and was buried, yet rose from the grave.
As surely as He fulfilled every prophecy about His first coming, He will come back again to retrieve us. Lazarus eventually died and disintegrated in his grave clothes like even the best of our lot. Jesus, in contrast, emerged from His tomb in resplendent brilliance, never to die again.
If your loved one knew the Lord, you have solid reason for hope. When Jesus returns He will not only reunite your soul with your model 2.0 body, but He will lift us up to meet Him “in the air.” Because Christ rose from the dead, trailblazing the way for us to follow, Christians grieve with hope.
In the transitions that grieving imposes, you are not alone. Your process involves particular timing and temptations, but Christians serve the same Lord. What is the point of talking when words cannot express the depth of your pain? God Himself did. Jesus knew such agony while praying in the garden that He literally sweat blood, and He condescended to express that pain using language His disciples would understand.
Whether you speak or just sob for a while, you and your Christian counselor have access to the Holy Spirit, the Master Counselor. Your therapist will meet with you by appointment, but the Comforter welcomes you to come to Him for rest and restoration at all hours.
In either setting, when you steward pain by truly grieving, your honesty gives God access to areas of your soul you may have guarded till now. As you re-evaluate priorities, grapple with profound questions of life and death, and talk through the panoply of emotions, you learn not to bolt at the first twinge of discomfort.
As tolerance for emotional pain grows, your faith solidifies from theory to practice. In line with the parable of the talents, God will entrust the faithful servant with incrementally more responsibility and influence. Those He establishes, He also promotes. As she matures, the restored Christian naturally yearns to reach out from her deeper sense of safety to comfort others, living not as a reservoir of God’s love, but as a river.
In the end, remember your primary identity is safe in Christ. You are not just someone who lost a loved one, but also someone God loved and found. Death shifts your roles, but you are still His child. Not even death can yank you from His care.
In your sorrow, picture the carpenter’s steady hand carving the chalice of your soul deeper, yet with the required precision to keep you intact. If you stay the course, He promises to fill you, displacing your grief with joy.
“Storm Over the Lake”, Courtesy of Dave Hoefler, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Yellow Flower”, Courtesy of Wolfgang Hasselmann, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Field of Lights”, Courtesy of Kevin Lanceplaine, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pensive”, Courtesy of Toa Heftiba, Unsplash.com, CC0 License