Christians should grieve over what God grieves about:
God’s people are meant to image God. We cannot resemble him in terms of things like omnipotence and omniscience, but we can and should resemble him in moral and spiritual ways. As we grow closer to God, his mind should be our mind, and his heart should be our heart.
That is, we should rejoice in what he rejoices in. We should love what he loves. We should hate what he hates. And we should grieve over what he grieves over. The things that concern God should concern us. That is one test to see if we are growing in grace and becoming more Christlike.
Thus if God hates certain things, we should hate them too. That does not at all sound like something most folks today – including most Christians – would ever countenance however. Such talk is totally foreign to them. ‘Christians hate? No way.’ ‘God hates? No way at all!’
But both are fully biblical. There are plenty of biblical passages to support both. But I speak to this matter in much more detail here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2016/11/23/divine-love-hate-part-one/
But in this article I want to look at another way in which we are to imitate, to mirror, God. God grieves over sin and evil and wickedness – and so should we. That God grieves is clearly taught in the Bible. Let me mention just a few passages here.
Way back in the early chapters of Genesis we read about how grieved God was over wayward and rebellious mankind: “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:6). Wow.
And God can be grieved over those he has chosen to use: “Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: ‘I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions’.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night” (1 Samuel 15:10-11).
The Spirit of God can be grieved: “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them” (Isaiah 63:9-10). And Paul quotes that passage in Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Jesus also was grieved by various things. In Mark 3:5 we read this: “And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”
God’s people also grieve over the things that God grieves over. Just the other day I again read about this in Nehemiah. Consider what is found in Neh. 2:1-3:
In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
Ezra too grieved over matters: “Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While he was there, he ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles” (Ezra 10:6).
The prophets routinely grieved over the sins of God’s people, and the judgment that was to come. As we read in Ezekiel 21:6-7:
“Therefore groan, son of man! Groan before them with broken heart and bitter grief. And when they ask you, ‘Why are you groaning?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that is coming. Every heart will melt with fear and every hand go limp; every spirit will become faint and every leg will be wet with urine.’ It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, is especially known for the great grief he experienced in this regard. A few of the verses that can be mentioned here include:
Jer. 4:19 My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent,
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
Jer. 8:18-21 My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me.
Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”
“Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images
and with their foreign idols?”
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”
For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me.
Jer. 9:1 Oh that my head were waters,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people!
Jer. 15:17 I did not sit in the company of revelers,
nor did I rejoice;
I sat alone, because your hand was upon me,
for you had filled me with indignation.
And it is the same in Lamentations. As Lam. 2:11 says:
My eyes fail from weeping,
I am in torment within;
my heart is poured out on the ground
because my people are destroyed,
because children and infants faint
in the streets of the city.
The psalmist also knew about grief. Here are just three passages:
“My tears have been my food day and night” (Psalm 42:3).
“Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law” (Psalm 119:53).
“Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” (Psalm 119:136).
The Apostle Paul was in constant pain and sorrow over his own people. As we find in Romans 9:2-4: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”
And he also grieved greatly about the pagans. In Acts 17:16 for example we see that Paul was quite distressed to find Athens full of idols. That bothered him greatly because it bothered God greatly. He shared the very heartbeat of God for the lost as well as for his own kinsmen.
Many more such passages could be presented here, but I think you get the point. God’s people are meant to reflect the very heart of God. And a major aspect of this is to grieve about and weep over those things that so very much bother God.
One last verse that I often share. The Old Testament prophet Amos spoke about these matters as well. And he makes it clear that we should indeed be grieving – in fact, woe to us if we do not. As stated in Amos 6:1, 6: “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria … but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph [Israel].”
So what about you? Are you, as a Christian, complacent, laid back, and couldn’t care less about what is happening in both the world and the church? If so, you may well need to repent and ask God to share his broken heart with you.
We should be grieving heavily over all that we find happening, especially in these increasingly dark days. Woe to us if we do not.