On Spiritual Grief and the Body of Christ

Each Sunday since this crisis began, I’ve found my eyes tear up during virtual worship with my church.

Easter Sunday, I cried the whole way through the service.

I cried because I wanted to hear all the voices of my brothers and sisters in Christ singing together praise to our glorious Christ who conquered the grave. I cried because I wanted to hear our voices together proclaim the truths in the Belgic Confession. I cried because I wanted to hear the word preached in person. I cried because I miss feasting together at the Lord’s table. I cried because I miss the gathered Body of Christ.

As I’ve thought about these emotions, I’ve come to realize I am experiencing a kind of spiritual grief. Though I have remained virtually connected to my church body, we are still physically apart. Though I am grateful for the technology that enables us to continue in our Bible studies, small groups, and Sunday worship, it is not the same. I can relate to Paul’s words in Romans 1:10–12:

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:9–12)

Though Paul communicated via letter and through fellow ministers with the churches he planted throughout the Mediterranean, he still longed to see these church members in person. I too feel that longing for in-person community.

That longing is there for a reason: we were created for community. We were not made to live isolated and independent from others. We were not made to do life on our own. We were made to image our God who is a community within the Triune Godhead. We were made to love, serve, and honor one another and in so doing, reflect our glorious God.

When Christ died and created the church, the gathered body of believers, he united us to one another through his blood shed for our sins. Paul compares this union we have with Christ and each other like that of a human body. Christ is our head and we make up the parts of the body. We are so connected to one another that like the human body, when one part suffers, every part suffers. I think that’s why this separation is so difficult, so painful at times, and why my heart grieves over being apart.

I don’t know how long this situation will last, but one thing I do know, I don’t want this longing and grief to go away. I don’t want to grow comfortable with this new way of virtual church life. I don’t want to think that I can do life on my own apart from the Body. In truth, I want this unsettled feeling to remain.

And so, I will continue to grieve until the day I can reunite with my church family, until the Body is once again together and whole. And I will continue to long for it as the Apostle Paul did: “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8). 

Lord Jesus, keep your church strong and healthy during this challenging time. Strengthen our bonds while we are apart. Keep us united as one in Christ. Use us to show the love of Christ to those around us. And endure us until we can come together again. Amen.

Originally posted here.

Photo of Christina Fox

Christina Fox

Christina Fox is a counselor, writer, retreat speaker, and author of several books including A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament and Idols of a Mother's Heart. She writes for various ministries and publications including TGC, Ligonier Ministries, and Revive Our Hearts. She serves on the PCA's national women's ministry team and is the editor of their ministry blog, enCourage. You can find her at www.christinafox.com. 

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