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Grieving Our Losses 18: A Grieving God 

Grieving Our Losses Day 18 – A Grieving God 

Daniel Petterson

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.” (Genesis 6:5-6, ESV) 

 In “It’s a Wonderful Life” (a.k.a. the greatest movie of all time), the hero (George Bailey) takes stock of his crumbling life and comes to a sobering conclusion. His life has slowly but surely snowballed into a crushing weight of anger, frustration and desperation. So he concludes and blurts out to the angel Clarence, “I wish I’d never been born!” For the next act, George is given the ability to see what his town, his friends, and his family would have become had his wish been granted. Spoiler alert—it’s not something George wants in the end! I feel like Genesis 6:5-6 and the flood that follows depict a similar situation, but one that takes place in the heart of God. He looks at a world that has fallen so far from Eden and He is left grieving, regretting He had ever made man in the first place. Man, made in God’s own image, brought Him grief. We don’t read much about God grieving in His heart though there were several instances later when the wayward Israelites grieved Him in the wilderness. If you’re in an incredibly difficult spot in life right now, and you wish you could hit the rest button, maybe it’ll encourage you to know that God has been there too. 

Something that should be mentioned, though, is how patient God was. It may seem to us like there wasn’t much time between His creation of man and this story. After all, we’re only six chapters into the Bible! But if you follow the math in the genealogies of Genesis 5, the passage above is likely 1,536 years after the creation of Adam. Add another 120 years for the beginning of the flood, and you’re at 1,656 years. And it isn’t like a switch was flipped after 1,500 years. We’ve already seen the murder of Abel in chapter 3 and the bloodthirsty offspring of Cain summed up in chapter 4. The evil and wickedness in man built to a crescendo until God’s patience ran out. But remember, He was patient for a long time before He grieved. When the Fall happened, we don’t read that He grieved in this way. When Cain murdered his brother, we don’t read that He grieved in this way. Instead, it was after a buildup of sins and evil that had overtaken the heart of mankind. And here we have the Eternal God and Creator essentially saying, “I wish I’d never made man in the first place.” I admit this is the type of reaction I have when dealing with times of disappointment or grief. I wonder, “Why did this happen to me? How could this have been avoided? Why are my children making bad choices? I wish this would never have happened at all.” I’m confident I’m not alone in these reactions. And even though I am nowhere near as patient as God was (and is) since I react that way immediately, it’s comforting to know He can understand my reaction.   

A common follow-on to grief for humans is detachment and isolation. That isn’t what God experienced here. Even while He grieved and regretted making man, He didn’t withdraw. He spoke to Noah, who built the ark, and through Noah spoke to the surrounding population for 120 years. In addition, His character didn’t change. While He would display His righteous judgment, He would also display His steadfast mercy. Noah and his family were certainly not perfect; they were human, after all. So, He could have enacted a full reset; He could have started all over from square one. But He spared Noah and his family.

And here’s the thing: He spared Noah and his family with the full, omniscient, eternal knowledge that He would be grieved again (and again and again). If it wasn’t Noah and his family immediately, it would soon be the events at the Tower of Babel. And on and on the grief would go. In a world of sin, there will be grief and loss and disappointment; it is guaranteed and inevitable. It amazes me to think that, though our God had a choice in it all, He chose the route that would lead to grief. Even more, He chose the path that would ultimately lead to the death of His own Son. Would I ever do that? Unlikely. So, if grief comes and brings unspeakable “solutions” to our minds (isolation, detachment, depression, suicide), it might do us a world of good to remember the God who chose the depths of grief for our good.

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