Good Grief

Good grief!  It was Charlie Brown’s favorite expression of exasperation.  But can grief be good?

Here are two grievers.  And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel. (1 Samuel 15:35 ESV)

After Samuel’s initial reluctance and personal hurt over the kingship of Saul, he came to pin a lot of hopes on the dashing son of Kish.  It doesn’t pay to pin too many hopes on human flesh.  It all came crashing down as Saul’s true character began to unveil itself in serial disobedience.  Now Samuel was crushed.

God also grieved.  It is strange to say, but the word of God is clear.  God grieves. And in this instance, the grief is honed to a sharp edge.  God regretted.  It is perplexing to the human mind how a God who knows all things and who works all things according to the counsel of his own will can regret anything.  I will be first in line to say that I do not know all that “regret” means when it refers to God.  But I do know something that it does not mean.  Read the very next verse.

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” (1 Samuel 16:1 ESV)  Whatever regret means to God, it does not alter his course or stay his hand or subvert his will.  And here I think we see the dividing line between bad grief and Charlie Brown’s good grief.

How can we not grieve over a world so broken?  How can we not grieve over our own brokenness?  God himself grieves over a fallen world and he has called his children to imitate him.  We will grieve if we are faithful to him.  But Samuel had become immobilized by his grief.  God was not.  Grief becomes a bad thing when it immobilizes us.  If we stay there long enough, we may even come to think that God himself is also immobilized.  But nothing could be further from the truth. God is moving.

It does not matter how dashing the next son of Kish is that we elevate to the presidency or the pastorate.  By all means, let us pray that he might be a man of God.  But by the same means, let us remember that he is, after all, but a man.  There is only one Savior and his name is Jesus.

“Fill your horn with oil and go.”  The aging Samuel was about done but he wasn’t done for.  And God wasn’t done with him.  Grieve?  Yes.  But shake off that immobilizing grief.  God has given you something to work with.  Don’t have a horn?  Look around.  What do you have?  No anointing oil?  He has promised to never leave you, to always go with you.  That’s enough oil to anoint anything.  Fill your horn with oil and go.  There is no other way to see what he is up to than to go with him to the place where he is working.  There is a young man out in the pastures over Bethlehem way.  He is singing his heart out to God.  You really ought to see it.  Fill your horn with oil and go.

What a Savior!