How to Overcome Grief (Genesis 23-24:4)

Grief is a desert that must be crossed on foot.[1] The sorrow that comes upon a person, especially by a loved one’s death, is deep and not easily overcome. But, it can be defeated if you are willing to be led through the desert by Jesus Christ. There are no shortcuts to overcoming grief because deep wounds heal slowly. If you will consent to be led across this desert on foot, you will emerge on the other side stronger, with greater faith, hope, and love. In Genesis 23, Abraham’s wife Sarah has died and Abraham grieves for her. Let us take time this morning to discuss what Abraham did during his grief and how he overcame it and emerged from it with greater faith.

  1. Mourn (23:1-2). After Sarah died, “Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.” The first step in overcoming grief is to take time to mourn and weep for the one you have lost. Do not try to suppress your grief; let the tears flow because they are soothing for your soul. The tears that flow are a testimony of the love that was shared between you and a confession of the longing to be blessed with their presence again. This is an important first step because people who suppress their grief and refuse to mourn cannot overcome grief because they refuse to acknowledge it.
  2. Honor (23:3-20). Abraham and Sarah loved one another greatly and Abraham demonstrated this by mourning over Sarah’s death. The next step in overcoming grief is to honor the deceased. In verse 3, “Abraham rose up from before his dead and said…” Abraham did not love Sarah any less in verse 3 than in verse 2, but he knew that after you have mourned for your loved one, you must transition from mourning to honoring them. While Abraham (and his descendants) had been promised all this land, at this time he was a sojourner among the Hittites. Therefore, he had no legal claim to land for burial. Abraham wanted a particular spot so he paid 400 shekels of silver for land to bury his wife.
  3. Live (24:1-4). After mourning for Sarah and honoring her with a place of burial, Abraham made a very important decision. Abraham understood that life would be very different now that Sarah was dead, but Abraham knew that he had more years remaining and resolved to live them well, as Sarah would have wanted. Abraham would always remember the past, but was not interested in living in it. Abraham knew that his attention must be focused on the present with an eye towards the future. Therefore, “Abraham said to his servant…swear by the Lord…go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” Abraham turned his attention towards the future and a wife for Isaac.
  4. Remember. Most importantly, never forget the promise of God and the hope that you have in Christ. These will serve as a guard for you to keep you from stumbling. Abraham had deep sorrow over the death of Sarah, but knew that God is faithful to see him through his grief. Abraham had experienced God’s faithfulness countless times before and knows God will be faithful now.

Are you overcoming grief or being overcome by grief? Imagine that grief is a desert that must be crossed on foot. Are you willing to make the difficult walk and take it one step at a time? Are you looking for shortcuts that will not satisfy? Are you willing to be led through by Jesus Christ? Christian, please grieve well; grieve with hope; grieve with Christ.

Grow Group Guide I Surrender All (Genesis 23-24:4)

Open with prayer and then have someone volunteer to read Genesis 22. After reading the text, discuss the following questions:

  1. What does the text say? (What happened? What happened next? What happened after that?) What happened to Sarah? What did Abraham do after Sarah died? What did Abraham ask the Hittites? What was the Hittites response? What did Abraham buy and how much did Abraham pay for it? What did Abraham tell his servant to do?
  2. What does it tell us about God? (Discuss the nature and character of God.) God is only mentioned one time in these verses (v. 6), why do you think that is? Even though God promised all this land to Abraham, why did Abraham have to purchase a cave and field for Sarah’s burial? Does God want us to mourn and weep over those who have died? If so, what is the proper way to mourn for those who have died?
  3. What does it tell us about ourselves? (What are the human characters in the story doing or not doing that serve as a warning or encouragement to us?) Abraham obviously loved Sarah greatly and it is demonstrated in his mourning and weeping. Did he love her any less when he stopped mourning and began to live his life again? How can we honor those who have died while continuing to live our lives? Why did Abraham want to buy the cave at full price from Ephron? Why is it significant that Abraham send his servant to find a wife for Isaac? Why does Abraham not want a wife for Isaac from the Canaanites?
  4. How am I going to think, speak, and live differently because of what I learned? James writes that we should be doers of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22). It is not enough to know what the story says, it is important to apply the truth of the story to our lives. Take some time in prayer and consider some changes that you need to make in the following areas:
    1. Think
    2. Speak
    3. Live

[1] Original quote from author Andrew Klavan