A Godly Grief

Sometimes I talk with Christian women who are trying to overcome discontentment when I think it is really grief they are dealing with. It could be the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a wayward child who has left home. It’s helpful to identify what’s really going on in your heart, so you don’t beat yourself up over something you really are not doing.

Discontentment is, at the bottom, a surly attitude toward God, blaming Him instead of thanking Him. It is a refusal to submit to His ways, His doings in the world, particularly those things in your life that are difficult. And discontentment won’t receive comfort. When you try to comfort a discontented person, responses are often things like, “But you don’t know what it is like. You don’t understand. Leave me alone.”

Grief is a different thing all together. Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Grieving is not a sin, unless it is indulged to the point where it becomes unhealthy. This is when it can morph into discontentment. A godly grief can even receive clumsy comfort from well-meaning friends. But discontentment doesn’t have grace to extend.

Troubles and trials are not to bounce off us as though we were made out of wood. We are human beings, made in the image of God, so we grieve. This is not wrong. It would be a red flag if we didn’t grieve, didn’t register pain, when we meet with a serious loss. We are not stoics, we are Christians.

But if in the midst of a godly grief you are confessing discontentment, you will just prolong the whole process and compound your grief with self-inflicted false guilt.

So how do you tell the difference? In grief you run to the Lord for comfort, protection, and healing, trusting that He is kind and good and will work even this affliction to the benefit your soul and for His glory. A godly grief looks for its duties in the midst of the trouble, pressing on. A discontented grief cannot move on, but stays stricken making grief its final destination.

In discontentment you constantly question, disagree, argue, and complain about what God has done. Instead of looking to God, you may be looking at the lives of others and feeling envious of their lack of trouble, blaming God, or even saying you are “angry with God.”

In all things we are to glorify God, even in difficulties and disappointments. We are to thank Him always and for everything. Gratitude in difficulty is a protection from discontentment. A godly grief is diligent to keep on the right track lest it veer off into hopelessness or despair. We are to look away from the trouble, away from ourselves, and to the Lord.

Years ago my in-laws had a visiting missionary give a talk on rejoicing in the Lord. I’ll never forget the story he shared with us. His wife had given birth to their much anticipated first son, but the little guy died shortly after his birth. And this dear saint told us that he knelt beside his wife’s bed and they rejoiced together in the Lord. The subject of their rejoicing was the Lord, not the difficulty. Were there tears? Of course. But when we rejoice in Him, we can rejoice in any circumstance because He never changes. This is our anchor and hope. This kind of grieving is not inconsistent with contentment.

It’s safe to say that we all will experience grief in our lifetimes. So we ought to be preparing now so that we will be able to walk through it by faith. How do we prepare? By walking by faith through the prosperous times. Trusting God in the little trials prepares us to trust Him in the big ones.

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest0

12 thoughts on “A Godly Grief

  1. “A godly grief looks for its duties in the midst of the trouble, pressing on.”
    This entire post was really helpful for me, but the above exerpt was particularly so.
    I have watched my mother’s mental abilities deteriorate significantly over the past eleven months from strokes and Alzheimer’s, and have thought I was being discontented and have been troubled by my responses at times.
    It is comforting to see the distinction between grief and complaining….I still must guard against complaining, but I can see that it’s not ungodly to ache for the mother I am losing.
    Thank you for that.

  2. I am moved to tears, and thank you again, for sharing experienced wisdom. I needed this just today.

  3. Dear Nancy,
    Thank you for your sweet words of encouragement. I am in the midst of incredible grief after saying good-bye to my best friend, lover, and husband of twenty years. This is my sixth week of grieving and boy, is it intense.
    I particularly appreciate dealing with the differences between discontentment and grief. Over the past several days I have been led by the Spirit to read the Word and I believe it is, in part, to keep me from moving into discontentment.
    I rejoice in the Lord while still struggling with and not understanding my loss (and the loss for our six children).
    I have no idea what reason the Lord had you write about grief at such a time as this but I will take it as God’s personal message to me. ~Heather Davis

  4. Dear Heather,
    May the Lord bless your steps as you walk through this valley with Him. Take courage.
    One more word from Rutherford for you:
    “Lay all your loads and your weights by faith upon Christ. Ease yourself, and let Him bear all. He can, He does, He will bear you.”
    With gospel affection,

  5. Nancy,
    Like Heather, I rejoice in the timliness of this message. Soon after a very hard providence I heard a sermon on the power of beauty to heal the soul. The pastor examined David’s focus on beauty when his soul was in despair. God provided a way for me to sing in a sacred and very excellent community consort. Having this beautiful music in my life at this season (90% of the lyrics are scripture) has protected me from much bitterness and discontent. God provides. Praise Him.

    Carol Ann Hicks

  6. I really touched if someone talks about God and His goodness.

    “In all things we are to glorify God, even in difficulties and disappointments.”

    Exactly. All things that had happened to us are part of God’s beautiful purpose for us. Even if we experience pain and sorrows God purposely done this to remind us with Him. But we still have weakness though because we are all humans. Discontentment to what had God provided us is one.


  7. Hello!

    I have days that I can hardly move from all the discontentment in my life. The only way I can move forward is by trusting in my Lord and Savoir He gets all the Glory.

    I have read a book by Jermiah Burroughs ” A Rare Jewel os Discontentment”. It was wonderful.


  8. My brother’s death three weeks ago has left me somewhat bewildered. This sort of grief is new to me. So I sez to myself today, “I bet Nancy’s written something useful on the subject.” And sho’ ’nuff, I found a few old posts…this one in particular…with some helpful info for sorting out my thoughts. Isn’t it fun to know that a post can hit a mark four years after you fired it off?

  9. Dear Valerie,
    I am so sorry to hear that you have lost your brother. I did not know. And I’m grateful you found some help in the old post. His mercies are new every morning, and I trust you are walking in His mercy and comfort. Please holler if we can be of any help, and we’ll be praying for you.
    With love,

  10. Recently this very question arose in my mind: How do I know if I am just grieving or indulging in discontentment. Thank you for these ministering and healing thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *