Grief and Hope

My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. (Psalm 6:7 ESV)

Suffering comes to all in some form and intensity. People bring upon themselves suffering and pain. Others may cause suffering because of what they believe and their consequent actions. Suffering may happen because of sin from long ago or circumstances far out of the control of those in pain. Suffering may also come because of a person’s relationship with God. This comes from persecution and is called suffering for righteousness’ sake.

Jesus tells us to know we are blessed when we suffer for righteousness’ sake. We usually do not feel blessed.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)

We feel weak. Suffering and persecution drains energy, motivation and brings hopelessness and helplessness. Yet, Jesus, in Matthew 5, uses the word blessed twice, often translated happy. The blessing or happiness does not come from the world, which is transient, but from God who is eternal. Fixing one’s attention upon the world and the things of the world can never bring eternal blessing. God gives that which cannot be taken away, available for those who are His, only in eternity with Him.

Still, facing death without hope of continued survival affects the physical body in startling ways. The senses may begin to shut down. Fatigue and lethargy grow, coupled with insomnia. Memory goes as forgetfulness sets in. Brain functions begin to shut down causing sight and hearing problems. Concentration disappears and the person begins missing obvious things happening around them. This is called depression.

Jesus was not depressed. David could have been. Hezekiah could have been. When faced with hopelessness, impending death with no hope of survival, a person may start shutting down physically. Everyone who belongs to God has the eternal hope He offers. Many do not recognize this hope because they are so captivated by the present.

To waste away means to fail or be consumed, to shrink. To grow weak means to advance in age, be removed, or to transcribe or write out one’s feelings at the end of a tumultuous experience. Grief is anger and provocation, frustration, especially with men and with God. Foes are those who cause distress, besiege, bind, press hard upon, are put in a straight and narrow place where there is no turning or fleeing. Enemies, waging war against anyone, will do all they can to besiege and trap, frustrate and stop, cause to fail. There is a war waging between righteousness and unrighteousness. The battleground is the thoughts of the hearts of men.

Hezekiah faced the Assyrians, who had just defeated the Northern Kingdom, driving its people away because of their idolatry. The king of Assyria then turned his attention to Judea and Hezekiah. Jerusalem was surrounded and faced ultimate defeat. The king of Assyria ridiculed and belittled God before the people. Hezekiah sought God and worshipped Him. God miraculously delivered Judea from the attack of the Assyrian. Isaiah told Hezekiah that God would fight for him. “That night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies” (2 Kings 19:35 ESV). Hezekiah knew what God would do for him and the people he ruled who worshipped God. 

Later, when Hezekiah lay dying he became despondent and depressed. He wept and prayed and God answered his prayer by giving him 15 more years of life. Death was Hezekiah’s enemy. He would die but he was young, only 39 years old when he became sick to death. He had great wealth and sought the LORD. But he was afraid to die.Jesus faced death by torture. He was afraid of the process of dying, not of death itself. For death could not hold Him. He knew that once His body died He would be raised from the dead to never again die. He also knew His death would bring many into His eternal kingdom. None would come in without His death and resurrection. Jesus’ eyes became weak and wasted away in death because of His enemy. But, when His eyes would open again in His resurrection, His grief over sin would change to joy and His blessing would come to those who are His. 

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