Charlie Brown, protagonist of the long-running Peanuts comic strip, when faced with various situational and relational standoffs would exclaim “Good grief!” But is grief good? Or does the phrase present a contradiction of terms?
Grief is too broad to strictly categorize as being either good or bad. For example, 2 Corinthians 7:10 says that, “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Feeling grief or sorrow about our sins and failures can draw us to God; however, one must differentiate between sorrow over being wrong, as opposed to regret for being caught.
Grief can be good. We experienced joy at our children’s graduations, but these happy changes simultaneously introduced grief and sadness because it meant our children were leaving home.
Grief is usually associated with loss through death. While I don’t consider this sort of grief good or pleasant, it does highlight something quite significant. Experiencing grief indicates that we have lost someone that was precious to us. A life devoid of grief may be indicative of a life without meaningful relationships or attachments.
Grief, though quite capable of being destructive, can be productive when managed properly. A group of 312 men and women were interviewed. They had all lost a loved one within the past year. In the interview, they were asked what they had learned and what they had done that was helpful during their grief…84% of them responded very positively. The most common answers were that loss and grief had deepened their appreciation for life, drawn family members closer together and almost without exception, they reported that they had discovered that they were stronger and more capable than they had previously thought themselves to be.
Based on my own observations, I would add that grief is responsible for more people thinking about and turning toward God for help than any other circumstance. Grief greatly enhances the value of memories. And our ability to reach out to others who are experiencing loss is significantly increased. This of course is God’s plan, as indicated in 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 where we read “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Finally, the impact of grief is an enduring one. I believe our focus should not be on “getting over it”, but “getting through it”.
Christians look forward to not good grief, but gone grief, for they are told that upon their arrival in heaven “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes…” (Revelation 21:4).