Hi, we’re new! Lily and Lydia is an online publication for Christian women that was launched in July 2023. While we’re regularly adding new articles, please be patient with us as we build the site!

Hi, we’re new! Lily and Lydia is an online publication for Christian women that was launched in July 2023. While we’re regularly adding new articles, please be patient with us as we build the site!

How to Biblically Support a Grieving Friend

Jul 14, 2023 | Loss and Grief, Faith, Featured

Grief. Sorrow. Loss.

These words were unfamiliar until January 15, 2021. A close friend of mine lost her husband too soon and I was clueless about how to walk this path with her.  Some may not need a guide as compassion comes naturally. Perhaps you are the shoulder on which people often cry. Compassion, unfortunately, does not come naturally to me. Heavy emotion causes me to walk in the opposite direction. I needed someone to tell me what to do. I needed to learn how to biblically support my friend.

I found Nancy Guthrie’s book, What Grieving People Wish You Knew About What Really Helps (And What Really Hurts). If you are looking for practical ways to help a grieving friend or relative this should be your handbook. 

Guthrie speaks from experience. She and her husband lost a daughter and son who were born with a rare genetic disorder called Zellweger Syndrome and each lived six months. She has walked this path and has seen and heard many responses to their circumstances. From this, she has given us this needed guide. She gives examples of what to say, what not to say, what to do, and what not to do. She reminds us not to disappear a month after death, three months after, or a year after. She reminds us that to be there is to be there in whatever capacity you can be there.

The lesson I learned from Guthrie is to speak the person’s name. Death does not mean they have disappeared. Memories need to be spoken. My friend’s husband mattered and he left a mark on me and my family’s life. When his name is spoken it means he isn’t forgotten.

The second book I recommend is Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain of Loss And the Comfort of Loss by Tim Challies. Challies is a pastor, husband, and father who writes all the thoughts he lived through after the sudden death of his 20-year-old son. His book is divided into seasons: fall, winter, spring, and summer. He shares his deep pain, confusion, and his heart’s knowledge that God is good, therefore His will is good. This is not an easy book to read. Just about every other chapter brought tears to my eyes.

Yet, reading about someone else’s grief helped me because I could step into the heart and mind of sorrow. It is powerful to read godly grief, grief with hope. Challies says, “Ultimately, if there is to be comfort, it will not be grounded in the hope that nothing bad will happen to me or to the people I love, but in the perfect God whose perfect character is displayed in his perfect will,” (2022, p. 77). He is confident in God’s goodness and His sovereignty. There is also doubt, questions, and worry mingling side-by-side with Challies’ confidence. In the beginning seasons of his son’s death, he worries about keeping the rest of his family safe. He asks all the “why” questions and concludes he will never have all his questions answered, but he knows that God’s purpose is for good toward His children, “But I can have complete confidence that it is all according to the good plan of a good God, a God whose heart is always love, whose purpose is always love, whose acts are always love, whose very nature is love,” (p. 34).

By stepping into Challies’ grief I glimpsed the possible thoughts of my friend. While she may not always be able to put into words what she is feeling, I now better understand what she is trying to say. The more I can understand her mind and heart the better I can walk beside her rather than wander onto another path.

What I learned the most (and it may seem obvious) is that grief, sorrow, and loss are hard. It’s possibly the hardest path on this side of heaven. It transforms you in a way you never asked for, but if we allow God to transform us we are able to know Him in deeper and have deeper compassion for others. The two greatest commandments we’re taught in Matthew 22:36-40 come to life in a way it hasn’t before.

It can be this for us, as well. For those of us chosen to share life with one who is grieving. We can do the next thing God wants us to do and not shrink back. We’re asked to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.12, ESV) regardless of whether we think we can handle this particular burden or not. A path created by pain, heartache, and tears appears impossible, but as the Lord guides my friend I remember that He is also guiding me. He brought our small worlds together at this specific time and He shepherds us both on this path.

jennifer jahn _Some may not need a guide as compassion comes naturally. Perhaps you are the shoulder on which people often cry. Compassion, unfortunately, does not come naturally to me. Heavy emotion causes me to walk in the opposite direction. Here's how I learned how to biblically support a grieving friend.

Jennifer is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom of 4, with a passion for children’s literature that reflects truth, goodness, and beauty. She is a native southern Californian who recently moved to northern Kentucky. You can find Jennifer mostly on Instagram (@jbriannejahn) talking about Jesus, writing, and her slight crunchiness. She also frequents Facebook (@jbriannejahn) and posts picture book reviews on her website at jbjahn.com.

1 Comment

  1. April

    As someone who has walked the path of grief and loss as well, this is all so very true. What a gift you are to your friend, wading through those deep waters of sorrow.