the good way

Journeying with God through Grief

Session 8 • Maturity • Activation

‘When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul.’

-”It is Well”, Horatio Spafford

An important part of pursuing spiritual, emotional and physical maturity is learning to navigate pain and suffering in a healthy way. In his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero talks about ‘enlarging our souls through grief.’

‘Grief is the normal but bewildering cluster of ordinary human emotions arising in response to a significant loss, intensified and complicated by the relationship to the person or object lost.’

Grieving is something that we most often associate with the death of a loved one, and indeed this is arguably the most painful and profound experience of loss that we, as humans, can face. However, death is only one form of loss and the ways that we can feel a sense of loss throughout our lifetimes are many and varied.

Common responses to the experience of loss are sadness, anxiety, loneliness, anger, confusion, helplessness, fear, bewilderment, despair, disorientation, guilt and shame. Grieving involves giving ourselves permission to feel whatever emotions we feel in response to our loss.

Loss is universal and unavoidable, therefore, to be human means that we will experience grief. And yet, grief is also deeply personal. There is a uniqueness to every response towards loss. No two experiences of grief will be exactly the same.

All losses, even seemingly minor ones, give rise to grief. Many people journey through their lives without noticing or tending to the grief they feel. It is possible to choose not to grieve our losses but rather than the grief being inexistent, it simply gets stored up in us and over time this can cause significant problems.

The presence of grief does not demonstrate weakness, but rather it demonstrates that love, affection, or belonging has been felt. The capacity to love and be loved is inherent in the design of God and when we love and value people or things, losing them brings sadness.

Every loss in life also brings the unwelcome reminder that we are finite and limited, and that life is uncertain. This can raise questions, doubts and confusion about God’s goodness and his power. It is not God’s intention for humanity to suffer. None of the evil we see in our world was part of God’s original design. And yet, there is so much mystery around pain and suffering and that mystery is actually a very real factor in journeying with the pain of grief.


The Bible is filled with stories of pain and grief, including the pain and grief that we see in the life and death of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” - Matt 5:4

Here the original Greek implies active lamenting, which is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. In this verse Jesus is making it clear that the expression of grief is a prerequisite for resolution. It is better for us to express our feelings than to repress them. Those who dismiss, deny or bury their grief do so to their own spiritual and emotional detriment and they also shut themselves off from receiving the kind of care that can lead to comfort.

Knowing that there is mystery associated with suffering should not prevent us from expressing our true and raw emotions before God. The Psalms are filled with songs of lament. These are complaints and expressions of anger towards God - anger regarding his seeming absence, or his seeming disregard for the peoples’ condition. Walter Bruggeman argues that anger is an inescapable response to loss and therefore, expressing anger as a part of our grieving is not contrary to faith or faithfulness in God.

King David was described in scripture as being a man after God’s own heart and here are some of his words towards God:

“Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?

Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.

Why do you hide your face

And forget our misery and oppression?” - Psalm 44:23-24

David was so sure of God’s acceptance of Him, that he was willing to bare his entire soul before God. He was willing to bring all of the dark, passionate, ugly or confusing parts of himself into the light of God’s presence. The safest place to express your anger is in God’s presence, knowing that he weeps with us.

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

And day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?” - Psalm 13:1-2

Personal Reflection

As you engage in a process of grieving, you might find it helpful to reflect on some of these questions:

  1. What loss or losses am I currently experiencing?
  2. What is my natural instinct towards feelings of grief?
  3. What questions, fears, emotions, or thoughts are coming up for me as a result of this loss?
  4. How am I expressing or choosing not to express my grief?
  5. Who am I speaking to about the grief or pain I am carrying?

You might also find it helpful to read some biblical expressions of lament:

  • The book of Job
  • The book of Lamentations
  • Psalm 12, 13, 22, 42, 43, 74
  • Mark 14:34
  • Matthew 27:46

Some people find it really helpful to channel their grief in creative expression.

  • Could you write your own Psalm of lament?
  • Could you take time to journal all you are thinking and feeling?
  • How could you express your grief through artistic expression?


Remembering is often an important part of the grieving process. Remembering can be painful because it reminds us that loss and separation has occurred and yet it is also vital in journeying with grief that we acknowledge the reality of the loss through actively creating memories.

You might find it helpful to actively engage in reminiscing and remembering: What memories stand out for you associated with this loss?

We also remember that Christ took upon himself all of our sorrows and all of our griefs and defeated them on the cross. The apostle Paul encourages believers to remember that we do not grieve as those who have no hope because we know that Jesus died, rose again and will raise to life all those who have believed in Him. We also remember that God has promised his loving presence to us, no matter what we face. He is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in times of trouble.

You might find it helpful to meditate on scripture:

  • Psalm 46
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9
  • John 16:33
  • Isaiah 43:1-4
  • Jeremiah 31:12
  • Romans 8:35-39

“We need to be reminded that our cup of sorrow is also our cup of joy and that one day we will be able to taste the joy as fully as we now taste the sorrow.” - Henri Nouwen


Lamenting is something that we may largely do alone but it is also something that can be shared with others who can listen and respond with care. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that, ‘The disciple-community does not shake off sorrow as though it were no concern of its own, but willingly bears it. And in this way they show how close are the bonds which bind them to the rest of humanity.”

  • Who are the safe people in your life who can support you in your journey with grief?
  • How can you invite them to support you and share the burden?

If you are currently aware that you are navigating grief or trauma, we strongly encourage you to seek out professional help in the form of counseling or therapy. If you would like a starting point for where to begin your search, you can check out the resources on the Oaks Church website.

Further Reading:

All Our Losses, All Our Griefs by Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller

A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser

A Grief Observed by CS Lewis

Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri Nouwen

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (chapter on Enlarging your Soul through Grief)

View other resources for this session