Grief and Rejoicing: Two Conflicting Emotions

Recently I was talking with a friend, and he said that many people have been struggling to express what this heaviness, this stomach punch, this difficulty they’re experiencing during the quarantine, the social distancing, and the nearly non-stop wondering if you’re sick or not? He said that he believed it was grief. Grief from what though you may be asking? We thought it was grief from not being able to go to a funeral or do a wedding. Grief from not having steady employment, not having enough money to pay your rent, not being sure if you’re going to be healthy, and among other things not being less sure of what tomorrow will hold. There are a lot of things that we’re grieving over at the moment. 

Types Of Grief

There is a lot of different kinds of grief that we can be feeling during this whole COVID-19 time. We have lost a sense of normalcy, there is a fear of the economy going collapsing, and we even have anticipatory grief wondering what the future holds. We have felt grief on a global, national, family, personal, educational, and business level. I want to stress that these kinds of grief are normal for Christians to experience because we’re human and feel such emotions. So, I want to say it is ok to get sad, feel depressed, or grieve in some sort due to the lack of normalcy, a failing economy, and fear of the future.

Stages of Grief

As you feel grief, you will pass through various stages of it. The various stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Denial is the early stage, which says: This virus won’t affect us. The stage of anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my freedom! The stage of bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks, everything will be better, right? The stage of sadness: I don’t know when this will end. This is terrible. And finally, the stage of acceptance: This is happening, and I accept it; I have to figure out how to proceed.

Rejoicing in Grief

One thing that seems far away in the midst of all of the types and stages of grief is joy and rejoicing. How can we rejoice amid such grief? 1 Peter 1:6 is something that I ran across this week in my quiet time, and it seemed to help answer my question of the ever-fleeting feeling of rejoicing. Peter, while writing to the Christians of Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, were going through really terrible persecution, or “trials” as Peter calls them. People were dying, being lit on fire, and being severely beaten all because they were Christians in a pagan society. However, Peter wrote this message to them and said: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials (1 Peter 1:6).” 

What is impressive in this passage of scripture 1 Peter 1:6 is that it shows these two conflicting feelings of grief and rejoicing in one verse. From this, I see that it is possible to grieve, but also at the same time rejoice. Many times I feel that we as Christians feel it is wrong or somehow sinful for us to feel any grief in our lives, but that is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible puts conflicting emotions together in several different scriptures. Comfort is paired with suffering (2 Corinthians 1:5), trials with joy (James 1:2), and rejoicing with persecution (Matthew 5:12). The question I have in my mind is, how do these things go together? Peter says “In this you rejoice (1 Peter 1:6).” The question would be what is the “this” that I am to rejoice over amid grief? The answer is found in the context. 

What to Rejoice About

The “this (1 Peter 1:6)” that I am to rejoice in are what God has done for me in his great mercy (1 Peter 1:3). Here is what I can rejoice over amidst the grief I feel in this COVID-19 pandemic. 

  1. Elect (1 Peter 1:1)- I am to rejoice over the fact that I am part of the “elect (vs. 1).” That means that God has chosen you to be his. He has effectually called you to be part of his family. Israel is designated as God’s chosen and elect people (Deut 4:377:6–810:1514:2Ps 106:5Isa 14:1). Peter even says that the church is the Israel of God, his chosen people (1 Peter 2:9). We were people that were walking in terrible sin (Ephesians 2:1-5), but God, in his amazing grace elected us. 

  2. Born Again (1 Peter 1:3)- Another thing to rejoice over is the fact that you’re born again (1 Peter 1:3). You’re were someone by nature would not walk in obedience, but because of God’s mercy, he enabled you to walk in obedience. Being born again means that God puts his Spirit in you to cause you to walk in obedience to his will (1 Peter 1:2, Ezekiel 36:25-27). God does not just give you salvation and then leave you on your own to figure out this Christian life; instead, he empowers you to be born again (1 Peter 1:2-3). 

  3. Hope, Inheritance, & Salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5)- Since God has elected you and caused you to be born again, there are three effects of being born again. He says that we’re given “hope (1 Peter 1:3)”, “inheritance (1 Peter 1:4)”, and “salvation (1 Peter 1:5).” The hope that we have is based on the fact that Christ rose from the dead otherwise, we have no hope. The hope itself is that we have an inheritance in heaven. The inheritance that we will receive is a new city (Hebrews 11:13-16), it is a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:13), and it is a place where we will be with other believers (Colossians 1:12). It is also eternal life (Matthew 19:29), and it is Jesus Christ himself (1 Peter 1:7). What an unbelievable inheritance! The incredible thing about this inheritance is that it will never end! It is only amazing and glorious all of the time, for all eternity (1 Peter 1:4). Since the hope that we have is this fantastic inheritance in heaven, how does one get this inheritance since we live in a world with such severe temptations? The answer is faith that God guards, to keep you secure so that you will be saved from terribly tempting and trying things of this world (1 Peter 1:5). This faith then leads you to salvation that you will finally realise whenever Jesus returns (1 Peter 1:5). 

Conclusion

What does all of this mean? It means that God is actively working for you to have amazing blessings in heaven, some of which we will experience on this earth, but not fully. These blessings are so amazing that it will ultimately outshine any of the grief that you will have in this world (Romans 8:18, 1 Peter 1:6). Peter is saying that yes, we will have grief in this world but compared to the things that God has done for us in his mercy (1 Peter 1:3) there is no comparison. Grief is something that you will experience, but don’t let it be the final word during this COVID-19 time. Consider that you’re elected, born again, have hope, will receive an inheritance and that you will receive salvation from this crazy world. God is an amazing God and working good for us in everything (Romans 8:28), assuming you’re born again, therefore rejoice in that and let that be your focus, and it will outshine the grief that you’re facing. 

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