Understanding Grieving People

Isaiah 53:3 – “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…”

There have been thousands upon thousands of books written about grief and the grieving process. Suffice it to say, then, that this short blog will represent a miniscule aspect of an uncapturable subject. Yet the words within this blog have been gained from personal experience in the trenches of grief, wisdom from professional grief counselors, caregiving training here at Faith (Stephen Ministry), and walking alongside others in deep grief.

Life in the trenches of grief has yielded many things that shed fractional light on understanding grieving people. This blog will focus on one specific thing grieving people desire to be understood: the Scripture is not an anesthetic for the pain. The pain is REAL. The pain is a representation of brokenness. Brokenness causes deep pain. Concurrently with that seemingly harsh statement is complete reverence for the Holy Word and acknowledgement that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful (2 Timothy 3:16). Fact: We still feel pain. The Scriptures are living and active (Hebrews 4:12). They comfort, renew hope, strengthen our faith, and point us to our Savior who himself was acquainted with grief, Jesus. The Scriptures are divinely inspired by God. Yet, we still feel the pain.

Scripture IS God-breathed and absolute Truth, but it’s not an anesthetic for the pain. What then is the beautiful place for Scripture when interacting with grieving people? It points them to the Man of Sorrows. Points them to the One acquainted with grief. He is the Word. It’s his presence that can absorb our pain and anguish. It’s his ability to speak directly to our spirit. He alone is qualified. He anguished with drops of blood. He took on the cross. His physical body experienced the fullness of pain. Yet he also carried the weight of mans’ sin and the separation from his Father. He felt incomprehensible pain. The Man of Sorrows. The One acquainted with grief. He gets down into the darkest trenches of grief.

How else do we walk alongside those grieving? Quietly. When prompted by the Holy Spirit, use words.
Verbally acknowledge the pain and anguish. Enter the situation knowing you aren’t the answer. In most situations, grieving people know you can’t fix the cause of their grief. They don’t want or need trite answers or empty hope. Faith Church has an amazing care ministry that provides training to equip people to come alongside those who are grieving. Stephen Ministry trains caregivers to be present in the pain without taking on the responsibility to fix the pain. Stephen Ministry caregivers point care receivers to the Cure Giver, Jesus.

Those coming alongside others in deep grief benefit from embracing the inadequacy of our self-inspired words. If words are needed, we need Holy Spirit-guided words.

These thoughts from Sarah Young in Jesus Calling resonate with me:

“You need the help of my Spirit to respond appropriately. Ask him to think through you, live through you, love through you. If you respond to others’ needs through your unaided thought processes, you offer them dry crumbs.”

Let Jesus’ Spirit allow us to offer Living Water. There’s an invitation from our suffering Savior for grief-caused thirst. Here are his words:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37).

Living Water from the Man of Sorrows. A divinely adequate supply. Not dry crumbs.

Trust the Living Water inside of you to create the adequacy to come alongside the grief.

John 7:38 says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit….”

Understanding grieving people is complex. The Man of Sorrows, the One acquainted with grief, our suffering Savior–he knows. Praises for his provision of Living Water! 

Kelly Packard began attending Faith in 1997. She loves affirming the promises of God from his Word through writing, and, as part of Faith’s writing team, she brings that passion and insight to our church. Kelly has spent her professional career as a college/pro women’s basketball coach. In May 2020, Kelly and her husband Rich and their son Evan launched Living Hope Mountain Respite, a ministry geared toward helping couples who have lost a child. In her leisure time, she enjoys her family and friends, drinking coffee and exercise.