By Beth Ann Baus, Crosswalk.com
There’s a lot of grieving going on right now. The number of people around the world losing loved ones to COVID-19 is increasing every day as is the number of people who are sick and fighting for their lives. These people, and their families, are suffering in a way I can only imagine. These people are looking darkness in the face. They are grieving.
Business owners are stressed over the lack of sales and having to lay off their workers. Many are left to wonder how long this will go on and how they will provide for their families. We were created for work, and sitting idle can lead to depression, anxiety, and a loss of self-worth. These people are facing the unknown and they are grieving.
There are people who started new businesses just before this madness hit, and now they’ve had to close the same door they just opened. There are authors who have canceled book tours, musicians who have canceled concerts, and actors who had to bring down the curtain before they ever stepped on the stage. Hopes and dreams have been dashed, and they are grieving.
There are those who live alone and are desperate for companionship and physical touch. Others are living in an unsafe situation, as reports of domestic violence and child abuse are on the rise. Some are longing for community. Some are longing to be left alone.
Both are grieving.
Our high school seniors are missing out on “lasts” like prom, musicals, recitals and, not unlike many college seniors, they might miss out on graduation ceremonies as well. Younger kids have worked hard on art projects that will never be completed and practiced for programs that will never be seen. Athletes have trained for games that will never be played. What we may see as a mere disappointment is, to them, a loss. Our students were looking forward to memories that will never be made, and they are grieving.
To all of this I say, it’s okay to grieve what you’ve lost during quarantine. However, as children of God, we must not sin in our grief. Almost no one alive today has lived through a pandemic before, and no matter how alone we feel, we’re all facing this together. As we navigate this new path laid before us, let’s keep the following five things in mind.
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Grief Is Grief
We’re all grieving in one way or another right now, and the last thing we should do is start comparing our grief.
For instance, for an adult, a dose of perspective can be a good thing. But, it’s not helpful to tell your child to stop grieving over the cancellation of their dance recital when there are healthcare workers who can’t go home to their families at night.
Is the healthcare worker’s situation more important? Yes. But this truth doesn’t diminish what your child is feeling. Let them be sad about what they’re missing out on during this time. Comfort them, even as you yourself are grieving.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Notice this says we are to comfort those who are in any affliction. It doesn’t say we only comfort those whose afflictions are equal to our own, or afflictions that we deem worthy of our attention.
In other words, don’t shame your teenager for being sad that they’re missing prom just because you know a neighbor down the street is in the hospital. Should you encourage your teen to be concerned for their neighbor? Yes! But it’s also okay for you to be concerned for your teen.
Grief is grief. Let us comfort one another with the comfort we have been given by our Lord Jesus Christ.
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It’s Okay to Grieve
If you’ve lost a loved one due to COVID-19, you don’t need permission to grieve. But you might need permission to grieve if you’re an extrovert and you miss being with your friends, or you're a grandparent who can’t have regular visits with the grandkids right now.
Regardless of your situation, it’s okay to grieve. Grieve for yourself, and grieve for others.
While we must be careful not to be controlled by our emotions, we must remember that God gave us emotions. He created us to feel joy, to feel pain, to feel anger towards injustice, and to grieve when something precious is lost. Grieving is a part of life.
The goal then is not to avoid grieving, but to not sin in our grief, and to allow sanctification to bring change that lets us look more like Christ.
If you find yourself being weepy during this time, remind yourself that you’re grieving. If you find yourself being easily agitated and short-tempered with your family, remember that you’re grieving and you need not sin in your grief. If your children are acting out and being disrespectful, remember they’re grieving.
This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be corrected, but remember they also need comfort. In our grief, we should strive to live out Galatians 5:22 and put into practice love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Grief will look different for us all. It can come and go in waves, and flare up at unexpected times.
Find a spot where you can be alone, if possible, and take your grief to the Lord. Psalm 147:3 reminds us that the Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He does not discriminate based on age or gender, and He cares equally for those who have lost loved ones and those who have lost recitals. He cares. And so should we.
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Grieve, but Don’t Waste This Opportunity
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Even before COVID-19 I’ve been through multiple seasons of grief, and I know that thankfulness isn’t always the first response of a grieving heart.
Yet that is God’s will for us. We can be thankful for the time we had with those we’ve lost. We can be thankful for the years of plenty. We can be thankful for the memories we’ve made. We can be thankful that we serve a God who is sovereign even over this.
And most of all, we can be thankful that regardless of our hardships on this earth, as children of God, we are joint heirs to the kingdom of God!
1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” I confess, I don’t like grieving. When trials come and grief is in sight, I want it to end and I want it to end quickly.
Yet, Romans 5:3-4 says, “...we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” So, not only should we be thankful and rejoice, we should rejoice in our suffering.
It’s in our suffering that some of the most significant sanctification happens. We should look for it, expect it, and rejoice in it. This might be harder for younger children to grasp, but if you lead, they will likely follow.
1 Peter 2:15 says, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” Do good. It’s that simple. We can comfort one another and serve one another even during quarantine. With today’s technology, we can reach out to just about anyone to see if they’re in need.
We can pray for each other over the phone. We can send letters. We can drop off pantry items to our elderly neighbors. We can use our words to spread encouragement rather than fear on social media. We can and should do good. Even in the midst of this crisis, and even in the depth of our grief.
Ephesians 5:15-20 gives us a long list of ways to and not to make the most of this time.
V. 18 tells us not to get drunk, but to be filled with the Spirit. During seasons of hardship and grief, it’s ever so easy to turn to temptations of the flesh. To drown our sorrows in earthly pleasures. But we must resist and instead fill ourselves with the Spirit.
V. 18b-19 tells us to “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Is it okay to binge on Netflix, or to spend hours escaping in a book or a video game? Sure, as long as that’s not how you’re spending every hour of every day.
One way to make the most of this time is to come together as a family and praise the Lord. Sing together, pray together, worship together. It might surprise you, but many church-going families have never sung, prayed, or worshiped together outside of a Sunday morning gathering. What better time to start a new habit? If this already is your habit, or it’s a new concept, what better time to use technology and ask someone who is alone during this time to join your family in worship. What a beautiful way to increase your own joy and the joy of others.
V. 20 tells us to “give thanks always and for everything.” Again, this can seem daunting in the midst of grief. Yet thankfulness can be salve for a weary soul.
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This Time Isn’t about Us
The Westminster Catechism observes the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Something we often fail to see is that now is a part of forever.
This means we don’t have to wait for Heaven to glorify and enjoy Him! This means we can and should do this now!
Glorifying God and enjoying Him might look different for the person grieving the death of a loved one versus the person whose business is losing thousands or even millions by the day.
This might look different for the author who has cancelled a book tour versus the expectant mothers or brides to be that are cancelling baby showers and rescheduling weddings.
Regardless of the source of your grief, we can and should glorify God and enjoy Him now.
Enjoying God can include drawing near to Him with our sorrows, appreciating the beautiful spring weather he has given us, and choosing to take advantage of this time to rest.
How we respond to our grief speaks volumes of our faith to a watching world—especially through the medium of social media. How we grieve as parents speaks volumes of our faith to our watching children.
Fathers, how are you leading your family in dealing with their grief? Teens, what example are you setting for younger siblings as you grieve?
Being intentional about how we are coming off to others doesn’t mean stuffing our feelings or pretending nothing is wrong. It means as we grieve, with grieve with God, and we wrestle to trust His heart through it.
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God Is with Us
If you’ve lost a loved one to COVID-19, you and your life will never be the same.
Your grief won’t go away, it will just change over time. But I pray you will be filled with sweet memories of the one you lost.
If you have lost your livelihood due to this pandemic, your life may change drastically. You may even find yourself in a new career after this is over.
I pray you can be thankful for the provision and the new opportunities before you.
If you’ve lost the opportunities to make memories, to celebrate, or to commemorate, I pray you remember there are new memories to be made and more celebrations to be had.
In the meantime, as we wait for this to pass, let’s not forget Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The Lord has not forgotten His children. The Lord has not left us to suffer and grieve alone.
The Lord is aware of every tear, every sleepless night, every waking hour. He is with us and He is our God.
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Beth Ann Baus is a wife and homeschooling mom of two boys. She is a freelance writer and author of novels, Sister Sunday and My So Much More. In her writing, Beth often pulls from her own experiences of abuse, anxiety, depression and OCD. Beth has a heart for women’s ministry and is in the process of becoming a certified Biblical Counselor. She loves serving alongside her husband and pointing couples to the Word for strengthening their marriages and home life. You can find more from her at www.bethannbaus.com.