Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
Christian writer C.S. Lewis famously described his salvation experience as being “surprised by joy.” Joy is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22– and it is surprising how joy comes. Notice these three examples from the Bible:
*Joyful surprise of forgiveness from sin. When we are convicted of sin, we usually feel shame and may even experience depression. Yet confession of sin and God’s forgiveness brings the surprising result of joy. After David’s confession of the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, he cried out to God in Psalm 51:12, “Restore the joy of Your salvation to me.” God answered that prayer, for in Psalm 32 he exclaims, “How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven… How joyful is the man the LORD does not charge with sin…” (Psalm 32:1-2, HCSB).
*Joyful surprise during trials. When we suffer trials, we may experience stress, anxiety and worry. Yet James says that God uses trials to produce a godly endurance and maturity, which once again is a surprising reason for joy. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3, NLT).
*Joyful surprise of strength in the midst of grief. How can we experience joy in the midst of grief? Isn’t grief the opposite of joy? After the Jews returned to Jerusalem from exile, Ezra the scribe gathered all the people in the public square and read the law of Moses to the people and explained it to them. The people began to weep, grieved over their ignorant disobedience of God’s word. But the priests urged them to celebrate instead of weep. Why? They said, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NASB). It is natural to grieve when we experience loss in our lives, but when we take a look in faith at the big picture, we draw strength from the LORD, who is our Savior. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”
So my brothers and sisters, has life got you down? Are you ashamed and grieving over your past, and anxious and hurting in the present? Then look in faith to the wonderful future you have in Christ. Surprise! The joy of the Lord is your strength.
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When Will I Stop Hurting? Dealing with a Recent Death by June Cerza Kolf is one of the most helpful, compassionate books I have read to comfort someone who is grieving. As a pastor, I have given several resources to people to help them with the grieving process. A church member who had lost her mother told me that this book was even more helpful to her than what I had given her, so I had to read it myself. Now I see why. Kolf writes as someone who not only understands the grief process, but has experienced it herself. She has a wonderful balance of encouragement and specific, practical advice. It is a resource that a grieving person will want to keep nearby to refer to again and again, and share with others.
The book is divided into three chapters: The Wound, The Flood, and the Rainbow. The first chapter, “The Wound,” explains the hurt and feelings of grief. Grieving readers will find themselves saying, “Yep, that’s me.” Yet they will find it comforting to see how what they are experiencing is normal, and they are not going crazy.
The second chapter, “The Flood,” explains the stages of grief and gives practical advice about making decisions and taking care of oneself through that process.
The third chapter, “The Rainbow,” is an inspiring and practical explanation of how one let’s go of grief and moves on in life.
There is an appendix that gives nearly 20 exercises with a “To Do” list to handle guilt, crying, loss of sleep, remembering your loved one, etc.
However, as good as this book is, I feel that Kolf could have strengthened the book with comforting scripture. She does mention two Bible verses, and talks about God throughout the book. On page 41, she gently recommends “a divine friend who loves me no matter what…This friend, Jesus, is available to everyone through prayer.” Since she chose to mention her faith, she could have strengthened this by citing scripture such as Jesus’ words about being with us and preparing a place in heaven (John 14:1-6), Paul’s words about finding comfort in God by comforting others (2 Corinthians 1:6), or Kind David’s beloved Shepherd’s Psalm, Psalm 23. I have seen people physically relax upon hearing the Twenty-third Psalm. Scriptures such as these could make this wonderful, helpful book even more “hope-ful” to the grieving reader.
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