Reformed Theology and Grieving
Grief is all around us. Sin has a tendency to create it. People grief differently. Some weep, some laugh, some are stoic. As for myself, I have the tendency to detach from my emotions. This is something that I need to keep in mind because not dealing with my feelings can cause even more pain down the line. But no matter how you deal with pain and grief there is one thing that you need to keep in mind. God is in control.
This phrase is typically a platitude that people say to others who are grieving. This can cause people to have different reactions because this phrase is used over and over by people trying to be comforting. Not only that, sometimes people react negatively because it is hard to see outside of the pain and grief. Even though we may not like the notion that God is in control it is Biblical. For instance let’s look at the story of Joseph in Genesis. Joseph was despised by his brothers. They hated him. So, they had a plan to kill Joseph. They end up not killing Joseph but they decide to profit from their betrayal by selling Joseph into slavery. They tear off his tunic and dip it in blood so that their father will believe that Joseph had died. When they do this Joseph’s father, Jacob, say these words:
“It is my son’s tunic! A wild animal has eaten him! Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters stood by him to console him, but he refused to be consoled. “No,” he said, “I will go to the grave mourning my son.” So Joseph’s father wept for him. -Genesis 37:33b-35, NET
This was a time of great grief for their father. He believed that his son had been killed by animals in the wilderness. His grief was so great that he vowed to lament over his son’s death until the day he died. If I thought that my son was dead I would certainly be grieving. But what about Joseph?
The Bible does not explicitly tell us that Joseph was grieving over the betrayal of his brothers but if my siblings sold me into slavery, I would be grieving. Well, time went by and, through the power of God, Joseph had favor in the eyes of his owner. His owner, Potiphar, gave him the right to oversee all of his property. He then gets accused of sexually advancing on Potiphar’s wife. He was thrown in jail. He rose again to prominence by interpreting dreams of famine which saved Egypt. Joseph’s brothers come to him saying that they will be his slaves because of what they did to him. Joseph replies with these words in Gen. 50:20:
“As for you,you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day.” -NET
God granted Joseph a great blessing by seeing the reason behind his grief. His grief was caused by his evil brothers selling him into slavery, yet it was for a purpose. However, many times when we grieve we are like Joseph’s father. We don’t know the purposes behind the grief we are going through. What we need to keep in mind is that God does have a purpose. God’s will is worked out in our grief because God is in control.