Monday, July 6, 2020

Grief: An Emotion We Don’t Want to Be Acquainted With

Have you ever read a passage from the Scriptures that struck you in a way it’s never done before? Even come across a verse and wondered, “Was that even there the last time I read this chapter?”


This has happened to me a number of times. The most recent was the other day while reading Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, my favorite devotional book. He was commenting on a prophetic statement about the coming Messiah in the Old Testament, “He is…a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).


Each of us has experienced grief in some fashion – losing loved ones and friends, broken relationships, or even the death of a dream. But have we really become “acquainted” with grief as Jesus Christ did during His time on earth?


My friend Oswald elaborates better than I can: We are not ‘acquainted with grief’ in the same way our Lord was acquainted with it. We endure it and live through it, but we do not become intimate with it.” In other words, we seek to get past it as soon as possible.


Then he takes his observations a step further. He said it was not death per se that brought Jesus into such intimacy with grief, but sin:  

“At the beginning of our lives we do not bring ourselves to the point of dealing with the reality of sin. We look at life through the eyes of reason and say that if a person will control his instincts, and educate himself, he can produce a life that will slowly evolve into the life of God. But as we continue on through life, we find the presence of something which we have not yet taken into account, namely, sin – and it upsets all of our thinking and our plans. Sin has made the foundation of our thinking unpredictable, uncontrollable, and irrational.


“We have to recognize that sin is a fact of life, not just a shortcoming. Sin is blatant mutiny against God, and either sin or God must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue – if sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is nothing more fundamental than that.” 


Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus, incarnate God taking on human flesh to teach, provide a perfect example, and ultimately, give His life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind. In so doing, as John 1:12 declares, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” And yet, during his 33 years on earth, Jesus endured hostility, even hate, ridicule and scorn, rejection, torture, and finally, crucifixion.


Everywhere He went, Jesus saw the raw, devastating effects of sin raging and ravaging all of humankind and creation. So, truly acquainted with sin, He daily walked among people oblivious to their own sin, their brokenness, their own unrighteousness. Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, no not one,” and Romans 3:23 adds, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The reality of this stared Jesus in the face every day, everywhere He went.


What does this mean for us? In a subsequent passage, Chambers states, “Not being reconciled to the fact of sin – not recognizing it and refusing to deal with it – produces all the disasters in life…. If you refuse to agree with the fact that there is wickedness and selfishness, something downright hateful and wrong, in human beings, when it attacks your life, instead of reconciling yourself to it, you will compromise with it and say that it is of no sense to battle against it.”


Have you noticed what’s been going on around us – in our communities, states, our nation and the world? We ascribe the cause of the strife, chaos and discord to “systemic” problems, ones that supposedly can be remedied through the right laws, properly prescribed behaviors, and restricted speech. But none of this addresses the universal reality of sin that has so deeply infected the human spirit. Sin, as Chambers astutely comments, “produces all the disasters of life.”


Jesus, as the passage above tells us, was “acquainted with grief.” It was such an ever-present tragedy of His earthly sojourn. Meanwhile, we largely ignore it, dismissing it with empty rationalizations, and seeking answers everywhere except where the one true answer can be found – genuine, heartfelt repentance on the part of people willing themselves to become acquainted with the grief of sin, and the subsequent redemption available only through Christ.


Romans 5:8 tells us, “God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Immersed in grief over sin, Jesus gave His life for us that we might experience new life in Him. That, not laws or political correctness or debasing public gestures, is the one cure, the sole remedy to all of the ills that afflict our society today.

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