How long does grief endure?
No length of time is prescribed in scripture. Well meaning counsel may suggest, “It’s time to move on“. However, the time for you and the time for me to “move on” may differ significantly.
It will differ because of our personality, our temperament, our emotional stamina, our peculiar strengths and attributes and a host of other factors. There are mental and emotional health concerns if grief becomes life consuming and controlling, and there will be a time when you do “move on”, however there is no timetable to specify exactly when that should be.
Our experience and expression of grief is likely to change over time, but it may be, in this life, that we never fully “move on” in some instances.
e.g. I lost my Dad, via a sudden drowning accident, 20 years ago this coming July 8th, 2009. Rarely can I discuss it at length without pause or getting a lump in my throat, and on occasion, a few tears. 20 years! Surely it’s time to “move on”?! The pain of the loss, whilst not as intense as those first few days and weeks, is still there. I am better able to manage my expression of my grief, rather than it dominating me, however it is no less real.
In 1 Peter 1:3-9, Peter discusses the matter of grief and rejoicing. He acknowledges the reality of grief without condemnation or criticism. The term translated as “grieved” in verse 6 of the ESV is “heaviness” in the KJV. The word describes sorrow, heaviness of heart, depression and sadness.
Peter doesn’t leave us in the mire and fog of grief, he points to “rejoicing”; in spite of our trials and suffering: Jesus Christ and the assurance of spiritual blessing and inheritance that he offers. Our lives are not dominated by our feelings, they are out weighed by the fullness of God’s glory in an through the salvation wrought by Christ’s own suffering on our behalf and subsequent resurrection through which he bequeaths to us a living hope.
As Paul, the apostle, said elsewhere:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
In the matter of Grief versus God: God is bigger, heavier and lasts longer, and our grief is temporal or transient.
Our grief does have a definite limit – there will come a time, as promised, that God will wipe away the tears. Until then, no time limit is placed on the duration of grief we might experience from any particular trial or loss. Whatever your grief or heaviness, God’s goodness and glory is greater and that is cause for rejoicing.