by Emily Conrad

I bore witness to grief this weekend.

As I sigh out now, my breath summons tears. Not for my own loss, but for the trauma the unexpected death inflicted on those closest to the one who lifted his own hand against himself.

I didn’t know him, and I am only an acquaintance of those who did. I’m a youth leader who wasn’t sure of the words to pray to comfort hurting students.

Nothing eloquent came out. Just repeated petitions for comfort. For light in darkness. For hope.

My prayer caught there and stayed, circling, fumbling, as I rested my hand on a shoulder shaking with silent sobs.

Jesus, comfort those who mourn. Lord, be a light in this utter darkness. Give us hope that will not disappoint. Jesus, your lambs are hurting. Help.

I’ve read in a couple of places, including when I was researching what to say to teens following a suicide, reminders that the intense phase of grief will not last forever. The overwhelming emotions will eventually subside, giving way to a more manageable grief.

The fact that emotions subside like this is a mercy I can only credit to God. Without Him infusing this world with hope, I cannot imagine a single soul reaching a place of manageable grief after a devastating loss.

And yet, as much as it would’ve seemed like a mercy in that youth room, manageable grief isn’t really a solution.

In my own life, manageable grief has proved to be a balloon. Easy enough to ignore and live around until something inflates it.

I missed a post last week for this reason. Old, manageable grief swelled into something unruly because of a situation with one of our dogs and with a family member, who is being diagnosed with cancer.

Similar experiences from my past inflated and rose like weather balloons to predict what would come next. The losses I would suffer, the harm that would come to those I love.

That death is a part of this world shows me more clearly than anything else the awful, horrible nature of sin. What a great offense sin must be for its consequence to be death.

But if sin is this terrible offense, how great must be the love of God that He would come into our sin-infested world to save us. How much He must love us that He would allow the hands He created to torture and kill Him, that He would shed His own blood, that He would die to pay for our sins and to defeat death.

His love is overwhelming that He would go to these lengths to rescue us from our own great offenses.

God’s love for us is perfect, and His rescue is complete. He hasn’t promised us the empty hope of manageable grief but instead, enduring and eternal life.

Yes, the balloon of manageable grief is still part of life on this earth, and I still believe it to be a mercy. But rest assured, it is not part of eternity.

If we enter a relationship with Jesus, though we mourn now, one day, our tears will be dried once and for all.

As for what to do with those tears now, let them fall. Grieve.

I wrote to a friend last week that I sometimes wonder how to reconcile my tears with the knowledge that God is in control.

Her response was rightly that we don’t have to reconcile the two.

This God, who loves us so much, does not recoil from our tears or our grief. He does not rebuke us for our tears, but rather, as we see in the account of Lazarus, He joins us in them.

And as He joins us, He gently speaks truth and hope.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26, NET

This is a question we must all answer.

As for me, yes, I do believe this.

I believe death does not have the final say, and manageable grief is not the extent of comfort.

I believe that, though our prayers catch and fumble, the Spirit of God prays along side us, uttering groans on our behalf that are too deep with meaning, care, and love to be expressed in words.

I believe that Jesus is our rescuer and that He will make all things right.

I believe that He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Though this post is about grief, it was in large part written because of the suicide of a teen who was a part of my church community. For that reason, and also keeping in mind that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ll end with this:

The number for the National Suicide Prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but of strength, so if you need help, please reach out for it. There is hope. You are not alone. Your life is so very precious to so very many.

This God, who loves us so much, does not recoil from our tears or our #grief-via @emilyrconrad