By James Saxman
Lonely is the home without you,
Life to us is not the same,
All the world would be like heaven,
If we could have you back again. —Anonymous
And she said unto them, “Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara [bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).
The Bible has a great deal to say regarding the topics of grief and mourning. About 20 Hebrew words translated into our English Bibles are some form of the word grieve. Though the occurrences in the New Testament are less frequent than in the Old, Christians are certainly not excluded from grief. They cannot but feel sorrow and be moved by grief. In both the Old and New Testaments, God Himself is said to be susceptible to grief (Isa. 63:10; Heb. 4:15). In the Garden of Gethsemane, the “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3) told His disciples that His soul was deeply grieved, to the point of death (Matt. 26:38).
Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there is a time for weeping and mourning appointed under Heaven. Grief is distinguished from mourning in that grief is a feeling of mental distress, while mourning is the outward manifestation of sorrow. Mourning is the way in which an individual, in dealing with the universal experience of loss, adapts from what was to what is. The Bible identifies many situations that bring about grief and mourning: defection (1 Sam. 15:35), disobedience (Ezra 9:4–7), desolation (Joel 1:9–10), defeat (Rev. 18:11), discouragement (Ps. 42:9), disappointment (Lam. 1:4), disease (Job 2:5–8), wicked rule (Prov. 29:2), misinformation (Gen. 37:31–35), invasion (Joel 1:1–9), politics (1 Sam. 16:1), the reading of the law (Neh. 8:9), and end-time judgment (Rev. 18:1–8). As our own experiences teach us, so the Bible declares that grief and mourning come in many ways and for many occasions.