By Rob Furlong
"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing."
So wrote C. S. Lewis as he processed his grief when his wife died.
When people experience devastating loss – the death of a husband or wife or someone very close to us – it is common for many to accuse God of being unfeeling and indifferent toward them.
The life of Jesus tells us quite another story and when we reflect upon it, we discover something very different indeed.
Jesus was a "trending topic" in Galilee at one point in His ministry.
Speculation was rife about whether or not He was the Messiah - it seems everyone had an opinion about who He might be.
Then right in the middle of all of this, Jesus receives some devastating news.
His cousin, John the Baptist, has been beheaded by Herod the tetrarch.
Upon being told this, we read that, "Jesus withdrew privately to a solitary place."
I am convinced that Jesus did this in order to process the grief He was now feeling at the loss of His beloved cousin. We know very little about the childhood of Jesus but I am sure that memories of growing up and spending time with John came flooding back to His mind as He mourned John's death.
And I am also convinced that Jesus slipped away quietly in order to give Himself much needed time on His own as He grieved.
On another occasion, we find Jesus standing before the tomb of His dear friend, Lazarus. Lazarus' sisters – Mary and Martha - are there, along with many other relatives and friends.
We are told that when Jesus saw the grief of those gathered at the tomb that He "was deeply moved in spirit and troubled". Another way of describing Jesus' response is to say that He "groaned in His spirit". It is a way of saying that Jesus was experiencing deep, deep emotion in His being for those around Him in their time of loss.
We are also told that He "wept."
Jesus is certainly not unfeeling or indifferent to grief – whether it be His own or others.
April is the month in which we usually celebrate Easter.
Many of us set aside some time to reflect on and give thanks for the death and resurrection of Jesus.
One of the descriptions provided for us about Jesus is that "He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief..."
In haunting language we are told that Jesus knew intimately the reality of grief, sorrow and loss. He knew rejection, He knew loneliness and all the anguish of soul that comes with that.
And at a crucial juncture in the history of the world, He experienced His greatest heartbreak of all – abandonment by God.
But we are also told that He did this for us!
Among the many things Jesus did for us at the Cross, one of them was that "He carried our sorrows..."
One writer has described what Jesus did in this way:
"Great though His grief was, He went to the cross and the person who acknowledges Jesus as king of their life receives forgiveness of sins and a personal relationship with Jesus. This bond is particularly meaningful in grief, because Jesus shared our earthly experiences, including suffering and death. He is able to help us and sympathise with us."
Rather than being unfeeling and indifferent to our grief and loss, Jesus knows just how we feel!
And His heart for us perfectly expresses God's heart for us in our times of loss. If you want to know how God feels about you and your grief, just look at Jesus.
It is the very heart of the Easter story.•