Christ Our Hope: Grief and the Gospel


 It was days before Christmas and our young family stood bundled outside the door of my in-laws’ house to do some carolling. They had been sick for a week now, so to lift their spirits, we packed my husband’s guitar, some instruments and decked our kids in reindeer antlers, jingle bells, and blinking Christmas-light necklaces.

When the front door swung open, warm, golden light poured out from behind the tall frame of my father-in-law, Harold. His face beamed as he said in a jolly voice, “Welcome!” Our kids couldn’t help but jump up and down and squeal, “Grandpa!!” But instead of running into his arms, our gentle hands on their shoulders reminded them to stand at a distance. With pained restraint, but smiling faces, we tried to make up for it with our music.

We were a motley crew of worshippers, not what you’d find on a stage on Christmas Eve. But Harold didn’t care. He loved every minute. And filmed every minute on his phone, smiling and laughing as the kids belted out the songs with all their hearts.

By the time we were about to finish, the sky had grown dark and only the candles and twinkle lights glowed. The air grew cold, and snow was falling, but for our last song, Harold rose to sing with us.

“Joy to the world,

the Lord is come,

let earth receive her King…

Let every heart prepare him room,

And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing

And heaven and heaven and nature sing…”[1]

For that brief moment, though we stood apart, separated by sickness, separated by distance, it was suddenly our voices that came together. It was our voices that found each other, like long-lost old friends embracing, breath and spirits mingling, rising, a happy reunion, caught up together in the air.

For that moment, as we worshipped Jesus, we forgot that Harold was sick, or that we were cold, or that the night grew dark. Instead, we only saw the light. We only felt the warmth. The hope and joy of the Lord who had come for us.

Before we left, we called out, “Merry Christmas! We’ll come celebrate Christmas–as soon as you’re better!”

From the doorway, Harold’s warm voice cut through the cold air, “Okay! Merry Christmas! I love you! See you soon!”

This memory of Harold flickers in my mind like the candle I held in my hands that night, softly glowing in the darkness. We had no idea it was the last time we’d see him. 

Several days later, Harold was rushed to the hospital for breathing complications. We couldn’t talk to him; we weren’t even allowed to visit. And so we waited, and wept, and prayed for him to get better. But in just a matter of weeks, he passed away.

Just like that, my husband lost his dad, my kids lost their Grandpa, and I lost a man who was like a father to me.

The Waves

I was not prepared for the violence of grief. As Mark Vroegop so aptly describes, “My grief was not tame. It was vicious.”[2] The unpredictable surge of emotion came like waves, knocking us down, threatening to drown us. Grief was not a gentle force.

We could be fine one moment, and then a little thing, such as a knick-knack, hand-written note, or an old text-message—would suddenly trigger the memory of him and send a tidal wave of grief over our hearts, flooding us with fresh sorrow.

C.S. Lewis’s, A Grief Observed, is prefaced by these words: “For the greater the love the greater the grief, and the stronger the faith the more savagely will Satan storm its fortress.”[3]

Our love for Harold and his love for us had been very great–and so, our grief was very great. But coupled with our own grief, was also our children’s sorrow. A weight so heavy, we felt we would drown in this ocean, where we couldn’t swim, or even touch bottom.

As the wind and waves beat against our house, our hearts and hands groped for something solid to hold onto. Someone.

We needed a Saviour. A Rock. The only Rock (Isa. 44:8.

The Gospel

I still remember how painful it was to sit our kids down in their bedroom and tell them the news about Grandpa. We could barely speak the words. How we hated to watch their young, tender hearts be pierced by death’s sting at such a young age.

While we sat holding our kids, and they wept in our arms, we couldn’t help but weep with them. The grief was palpable. It felt like our hearts were literally being pierced. Death’s sting was sharper than I ever imagined.

But as my husband held our daughter, and she leaned against his chest, he softly said,

“This is why Jesus came.”

There, in our greatest grief, he shared the gospel with our kids. The simple gospel.

He explained how from the garden, sin came into the world, and it’s because of sin that people die.  Our sin had separated us from God and would separate us from him forever. And we were totally helpless to do anything about it.

This is why Jesus went to the cross, to lay down his own life for us. Nails pierced his hands and feet, thorns pierced his brow, and a spear pierced his side. His body was broken, and his blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28).

On the cross, Jesus took the full storm of God’s wrath, so we didn’t have to. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

And then something amazing happened. Three days after Jesus died, he rose from the dead, just like he promised. And now, whoever believes in Jesus, will also be raised with Jesus and live with him forever in heaven.

“We will miss Grandpa very much,” my husband said through tears, “But because of Jesus, we will see Grandpa again someday.”

In that moment, though tears dripped down our cheeks, the gospel washed over our hearts. Never had we felt more desperate for a Saviour. Never had we loved Jesus more. Never had we felt more thankful Jesus had come for us and died for us. Never had we been more thrilled over Jesus’ resurrection and what this meant for Grandpa now, what it meant for us someday.

Because of Jesus we had hope.

Though the waves of grief crashed over our hearts, it was the gospel of Jesus Christ that brought us the deepest comfort. The surest hope.

Never had the good news, seemed so good. So strong. So sweet. Here in the oceans of grief and sorrow, we found Jesus to be our Rock, the solid Rock, the only Rock we could stand on.

How the Gospel Comforts the Grieving

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a flimsy flip booklet or sinner’s prayer—it is an enormous boulder jutting out in a wild ocean of torment. The gospel is real comfort for our pain. It is healing for our deepest wounds. It is a balm for our souls. It is in the very Scriptures that we find the bedrock to build our lives on. Here are just a few promises from the Bible we can actually stand on during grief’s violent storms:

The Problem of Pain. In the gospel we are reminded that it is sin that brings pain and bears the fruit of death (Rom. 6:23). In Christ, we find one who bears our sin, our shame, and “by his wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:5). Through his death on the cross, he took care of our greatest problem, and source of all pain, our sin.

Forgiveness of Sins. If sin is our greatest problem, we find our salvation in Jesus’ own death on behalf of our sin, and his resurrection to be the greatest solution. Christ’s work on the cross is totally sufficient to deal with the sin that once separated us from God. (1 John 1:7) Now we can fully set our hope in the finished work of Christ. Though our sins were “like crimson,” he has washed them “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

Unbreakable Union with Christ. As the blood-bought children of God, nothing in life, nor death, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from his love (Rom. 8:35–39). Our union with Christ doesn’t die at the grave. Rather, it only becomes more full and sweet as we are joined with him face to face. This is why, “we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

Hope of Resurrection. Jesus encouraged Martha in her grief, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25­–26). Jesus himself is the resurrection, and he will raise us up on the last day (John 6:40).

Future Fellowship and Joy. We do not have to grieve as those who are “uninformed.” “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1Thess. 4:13). But the hope just gets better and brighter. “And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16–17).

The parting now is painful, but it is not permanent. We who are in Christ, will enjoy fellowship with Christ and with one another again and are told to “encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).

On Christ

The waves of grief are powerful. They can either drown us in the depths of despair, or, as Spurgeon said, “throw [us] against the Rock of Ages.”[4]

Therefore,  it is the gospel we cling to. It is on Christ, the solid rock [we] stand.[5] And in his Word, we put our hope (Ps. 130:5).

As my own family grieves, we grieve with hope, knowing that the last night we spent with my father-in-law, Harold, won’t be our last. The song we sang that evening will come true,

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,

nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

far as the curse is found…”[6]

One day, the curse will utterly be broken. And death will be swallowed up forever (Is. 25:8).

Therefore we are filled with hope that we will worship with Harold again one day. But it won’t be in this cold, dark, fallen place, standing far apart, separated by sickness. It will be in heaven with Jesus, whose light will utterly cast out all darkness, whose presence makes sorrow and sighing flee away, and whose face shines like the sun in all its brilliance.

On that day, it won’t just be our voices that find each other, but our very selves, like long-lost old friends embracing, breath and spirits mingling, rising, a happy reunion of the saints, “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

We will always be with the Lord.

And then together, we will rise up and sing, all of heaven and nature will sing,

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”[7]


For more resources on grief see Paul Mallard’s new book, Learning to Lament: Our Heavenly Father’s Embrace When We Grieve

[1]  Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World” (1719).

[2] Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 18.

[3] C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins,1994), xxvi.

[4] This quote has been attributed to C.H. Spurgeon.

[5] Edward Mote, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” (1834).

[6] Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World” (1719).

[7]  Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World” (1719).


Picture of Rebekah Fox

Rebekah Fox

Rebekah authors the blog Barren to Beautiful, where she offers gospel hope to women during infertility and other dry seasons of the soul. She and her husband live in Pennsylvania and have been blessed with three children. She blogs at
Picture of Rebekah Fox

Rebekah Fox

Rebekah authors the blog Barren to Beautiful, where she offers gospel hope to women during infertility and other dry seasons of the soul. She and her husband live in Pennsylvania and have been blessed with three children. She blogs at