We Needed 2020 (and Still Do)

I have thought more about grief in the last year than ever before. Grief comes from loss, and we all—individually, collectively, and to varying degrees—have experienced real loss in these past months of life.

Our loss is why we were eager to say goodbye to 2020. With the prospect of a vaccine and life as “normal,” 2021 holds out hope of relief. But I wonder if in our eagerness to leave behind our losses we may miss something of eternal value.

We may even miss Christ and his work in our lives because, in his kingdom, the ones who are blessed are those who mourn (Matt. 5:4). Last year was a “house of mourning” for us, and we would be wise to linger under its roof a little longer (Eccles. 7:3–4).

Long and Winding Grief

In 2007, I was a sophomore at Virginia Tech when a fellow student shot and killed 32 people on our campus. It remains one of the most surreal and shocking events of my life. It is a loss I am still unpacking and, oddly, something I grieve more now than I did then.

After the death of his wife, C. S. Lewis recorded that grief “needs not a map but a history, and if I don’t stop writing that history at some quite arbitrary point, there’s no reason why I should ever stop. There is something new to be chronicled every day. Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”

Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.

Grief is not linear or straightforward. We want it to be tidy and finished, but it never is. It is inconvenient—who can choose when it happens? It can be irrational—we may say and think things we know in daily life are not true (“I’m all alone,” “Nobody understands or even cares,” “God must hate me”). It is counterintuitive—for adults, in particular, we think we should just “get over” our loss. And grief is compounding—in fact, when I hear other people share their grief, I often experience a fresh wave and understanding of my own.

Blessed Are the Mourners

When Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” in one sense he is inviting us to be honest. Total depravity is not simply a systematic category but the systemic reality of our existence. If we are to grasp sin’s pervasive destructiveness, it will require a lot of tears.

If we are to grasp sin’s pervasive destructiveness, it will require a lot of tears.

But tears that spring from godly grief are how we enter and experience the comfort of God’s kingdom—this is true both in our sin and in our pain. As we grieve our sin, our pain, and the pain of others, we experience and express the comfort and compassion of Christ.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus reveals a simple fact of the kingdom: those who mourn in the arms of their heavenly Father will receive his comfort. If we harden our hearts, or suppress the truth, or try to “get over it,” or stay too busy to pay attention, then we miss the comfort our Abba wants to shower on and through us. Comfort for those who mourn is what the Beatitudes pledge, and it is what Christ’s life proves.

Comfort in Christ

When faced with the death of his friend Lazarus, Jesus wept. When faced with the unrepentance of Jerusalem, Jesus wept. When faced with the agony of the cross, Jesus wept.

Those were his sorrows because they are ours (Isa. 53). When Christ took us as his beloved bride, he bound himself to us so entirely that our sin, death, grief, and pain would be his, and his righteousness, life, joy, and comfort would be ours.

He is the true and better Ruth, who told the grieving Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people . . . where you die I will die” (Ruth 1:16–17). We might add, “Where you grieve I will grieve, where you weep I will weep. Your tears shall be my tears.”

In the Beatitudes, Jesus pledges his comfort. In his life and death, Jesus proves his comfort. And in pouring out the Spirit, Jesus provides his comfort. The Holy Spirit confirms in our hearts that Jesus doesn’t merely weep for people generally, but he weeps with us personally.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus pledges his comfort. In his life and death, Jesus proves his comfort. And in pouring out the Spirit, Jesus provides his comfort.

As J. I. Packer wrote in Knowing God, our pain, sorrow, and grief are shouldered by the Man of Sorrows such that “he will not know perfect and unmixed happiness again till he has brought every one of [us] to heaven.”

Christ invites us to be honest about 2020 (and all other years). And the honest truth is that our bodies are dead because of sin; that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death; that we live in an evil age; and that life, as we know it, is passing away.

But Christ also invites us to an honest engagement with himself: our sin really is met with his cross, our pain really is met with his tears, and our death really is met with his resurrection. He is redeeming not only our sinful selves, but also our sad selves.

Let’s do the hard work of grieving the losses of this past year, that we might genuinely rejoice in Christ’s eternal comfort. Let’s schedule time to reflect in prayer. Let’s find space as the body of Christ for corporate lament. Let’s seek counseling and share our pain with friends and pastors. Let’s neither stuff away our grief nor wallow in unbelief, but genuinely pour out our hearts to God, because he has pledged, proven, and provided the comfort our souls desperately need.

Written by: TODD MURDEN

First published 01.02.21: We Needed 2020 (and Still Do) (thegospelcoalition.org)

One thought on “We Needed 2020 (and Still Do)

  • 9th February 2021 at 7:21 pm
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    As concerning the Word of life, Luke 10 section 25-28 says: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
    Luke 18 section 18-25 says: A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
    Matthew 5 section 43-48 says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    In Old Testament, the Jewish people and their ancestors were given the Law to observe. First, What Adam and Eve should observe was that they could not eat the fruits from the tree of wisdom. Then, their son Cain was told that he should not kill. As sins became increased, the laws were also added more. Up to the generation of Moses, the Law in Old Testament was given to Israelites. We know that the Law is good and the Law is used to punish people who commit sins, but people cannot obey the Law because the sinful spirits are in people. Even that we know stealing and giving false testimony are sinful, but greedy and pride spirits in us drive us to do sinful things. So as Old Testament prophesied we need to get rid of our sinful nature from our spirits.
    Jeremiah 31 section 31-33 says: “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
    Ezekiel 36 section 24-27 says: “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
    The prophecies are fulfilled when Jesus begins to teach love. The two greatest commandments are ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Love is above the Law and if people have love they are free from the law of sin and death. People who are full of love will not think about stealing or giving false testimony but are merciful and they feed hungry people or give thirsty people something to drink or invite strangers in or clothe people who need clothes. The Law is for people who commit sins. Nobody will say that he will get reward because he does not steal before. But love is the grace we get. And with love we will get eternal life.
    Romans 13 section 8-10 says: Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
    Luke 17 section 20-21 says: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say,’ Here it is,’ or ‘ There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
    John 4 section 23-24 says: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

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