When Grief Grows and Loss Lingers

by Rachel Marie Kang October 20, 2023
“Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Luke 24:52 (NIV)

Not too long ago, I found myself working through a few questions for self-reflection. They prompted me to think about my joys and my dreams, my friends and my family. Of these questions, two came in the form of charts with columns. The blank boxes beckoned me to name my wins and list my losses.

So I did.

I typed out my wins: finding a chiropractor, publishing my book, traveling to Mexico, growing stronger relationships with a few friends.

Then I also made a list of my losses: my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease, changes in my career path, the loss of my grandfather, the loss of many dreams. There are also the losses I wrote down with invisible ink — how I’ve lost more friends than I can count, how I wake every day with the same ache in my heart, missing my hometown and grieving the million little losses that come with moving to a new place.

It’s been said that time takes away the tears in our eyes, but this is not always true. Sometimes loss lingers long and loud.
Sometimes grief grows thick with thorns.
Sometimes we cannot escape our grief, cannot outrun those memories we still mourn. Sometimes we see their faces in framed photographs.
Sometimes we drive past the place where we watched our dreams die — the office, the church, the courtroom that ruined our lives with its ruling.

After I spent some time tallying up my losses, I studied Luke 24, which records what happened when Jesus returned to His disciples after His resurrection. He spent time with them, unfolding the mysteries of Scripture and breaking bread. Later, He led the disciples out of Jerusalem and into Bethany, where He blessed them before ascending into heaven.

I’ve found myself pondering these two verses over and over again: “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:51-52, NIV).

Is it possible? Jesus’ disciples returned to Jerusalem with joy? Jerusalem held the memory of their greatest grief: Jesus’ death. They returned to this place laced with the memory of their loss — and they rejoiced.

I am astonished, amazed and awed by the truth and the timeline of this. Jesus resurrected and then returned to the ones He loved, walked with them in the midst of their loss, broke bread with them, listened to their every lament and complaint … Then Jesus blessed them right in the middle of their brokenness. He calmed their confusion, dispelled their doubts and promised them power — so much so that they were able to return to Jerusalem with joy.

The disciples did not run away from this place of pain — they did not avoid it, did not circumvent it, did not curse it. Instead they walked into it, even lingering as they “stay[ed] in the city,” waiting to be clothed with power from the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49, NIV).

So how in the world do we hold the heaviness of grief while also juggling joy?
How do we step into spaces where grief grows and loss lingers?
How do we keep showing up, even after losing our jobs and dreams and homes and loved ones?

The disciples could only return to Jerusalem with joy after receiving Jesus’ blessing — a word charged with faith that filled every gaping hole, every crater of grief, because He had conquered sin and death itself. Jesus’ resurrection gives us this same hope.

This is not to say we can or should always return to painful places. God does not ask us to stay in relationships or places that put us in harm’s way. And yet there may come times when we sense the Lord calling us to do the hard work of entering back into a space that feels heavy with reminders of heartache. While in these places, He might not wipe away all our memories … but He does wipe away our tears.

He stands with us in the aftermath of our grief. He listens, and He speaks to us, strengthening our hearts as we wait for the promise of His power. Though grief grows wild and untamed, His love leads us on toward new life with resurrection hope.

God, You know my hurt and You hold my heart. Help me to trust that You walk with me, even and especially in the midst of seasons filled with loss. Remind me of Your goodness; remind me that You are greater than my grief. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Therapy & Theology with Lysa TerKeurst is back! Tune in now to hear brand-new episodes from Lysa; Licensed Professional Counselor Jim Cress; and Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Director of Theological Research, Dr. Joel Muddamalle. Together, they’ll tackle some really hard topics, but you’ll soon find they’re just three friends having a great conversation and learning from each other along the way. Start listening here!

Experience encouragement for your calling and soulful prompts and prayers with Rachel Marie Kang’s book, Let There Be Art.


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Romans 5:2, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (ESV).

What pain-filled places do you wish you could return to with joy? In what ways has Jesus blessed you in the middle of your brokenness?

We’re always here to hear your heart — come and share your thoughts in the comments.

© 2023 by Rachel Marie Kang. All rights reserved.

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