"What is grief, if not love persevering?”
This is one of those 'if you know, you know' moments for a Marvel nerd. If you’re not, in episode 8 of WandaVision, we witnessed some heartbreaking scenes from Wanda, the main character's past. We got the profound quote above from one of these flashbacks:
Wanda's brother had just died, and Vision, her soon-to-be love interest, was attempting to console her. She responded that the only thing that would comfort her would be to see her brother again, and that she felt eventually the sadness would consume her. Vision responded that it couldn't only be sadness that she’s feeling. After all, sadness is usually caused by something else. In this case, Wanda's sadness was caused by her love for her brother. Her grief was her love, persevering - even in his absence.
While taking a study break, I was doodling Vision’s remarkable quote on my iPad, and a Verse of the Day notification popped up.
2 Corinthians 7:10: "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."
While I would never try to say that Paul, in the first century, was functionally using Vision's definition for grief (though I do think Paul would make one great Avenger - he even has his hamartia), I do think the concept of "love, persevering" is definitely present in 2 Corinthians 7.
The first love persevering is Paul's love for the church of Corinth, to whom he was writing, and vice versa. There is much talk at the beginning of the chapter about the people's joy to hear from Paul, and Paul's joy to hear from the people. This is just a great intro to this idea, because we see that their love comforted Paul in hard times.
The second love I notice is the church's love for God. In a previous letter (which is found only a few swipes back on an iPad), Paul calls out some of the bad things this church has gotten entangled in, most notably division among the people, sexual immorality, and unjust judgement of other believers. Paul wrote sternly, in love, to them to cease all of this behavior and refocus on their love for God. As we see above in 2 Corinthians 7, this message was received with some grief. That grief could have gone one of two ways. They could have gotten upset with Paul for calling them out, continued in their ways, and written him off. This, I would guess, is how most people generally respond to being rebuked for a behavior they enjoy. (If you don't believe me, watch some episodes of Hoarders, Intervention, or any show where someone is trying to introduce healthy change into an unhealthy lifestyle. Things can escalate rather quickly.) Paul noted that this was a possible outcome when he stated that worldly grief leads to death. However, these people in the church of Corinth truly loved the Lord and trusted that Paul spoke with His authority, because according to this chapter, their grief did not last long, and it led them to repentance: change. Their love for God, persevering, caused a good kind of pain that led them back to the right track. They had lost sight of His goodness, His grace, His plan, for a bit, and things got out of control. Once they were reminded of His loving and gracious commandments through Paul's letter, they grieved the fact that they had lost sight of it, heeded Paul's words, and repented with earnestness and eagerness.
There is one more love present in this chapter, though not explicitly stated here: God's love, persevering for the people of His church. When I think of God's love persevering, causing grief, I am reminded of when Jesus was in the garden, shortly before the crucifixion occurred. Jesus knew what was coming, and He went away to pray, to spend some time with His Father. Jesus truly was grieving at this moment. He had told His disciples of His sorrowful heart, and the massive amount of stress He felt caused Him to literally sweat blood. Jesus asks God if there were any other options. He asked if this "cup" of suffering could pass from Him, but if not, He would drink of it. We see how much Jesus is not looking forward to doing this by the fact that, though this had been the plan for quite a while, He was expressing feelings of wanting out.
But love, persevering! His love is the perfect example of love persevering, because He says He will do it because it is the one perfect way to rescue His followers from their own brokenness. Amazing.
After this heart-wrenching prayer in the garden, we see that Jesus is arrested, tried unjustly, and crucified within a day. As the Son of God, He did truly have to allow this to happen. The people mocking Him during this process said He should just summon angels to rescue Him - and when He didn't, they assumed His lack of power was the reason. But it was not the lack of power that caused Him to remain in this torturous series of events, no.
It was indeed His love, persevering.
We know from Scripture and from eyewitness accounts of those present that only three days later, Jesus was no longer in the tomb He had been placed in following His death. He was raised to life, defeating death, and proving Himself as the perfect sacrifice for all wrongdoings of His people, past, present, and future. This allows forgiveness between God and humanity, and it paves the way for forgiveness between all men.
God grieves when we choose our ways over His ways, like the church at Corinth had done in many ways. But He doesn't grieve from a place of highness, where He is just upset we broke His rules. He grieves from a place of love for us, in that He knows what is truly best for us since He created us. He knows that His path leads to abundant life, and all other paths except His lead to destruction.
His grief in our sin is because His love perseveres, even when we are undeserving.
Stacie Beene (BBA, Dallas Baptist University) is an optometry student in Manhattan. She has been a member of Mission City Church since October 2020. She enjoys seeking out the gospel in pop culture, a passion she realized during her undergraduate years. She loves dogs, especially her Yorkie, Rusty. She spends her time studying and exploring New York City (but mostly studying).