“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).
To grieve means “to cause to feel grief, to make sad.” Incredible: our attitudes and actions impact the God within. We can actually cause Him pain. The word “grieve” and “grave,” meaning “sober, serious,” come from the same Latin root. And what makes this power we hold to bring grief to God more serious is that we have been sealed with the Spirit for all time.
The Spirit finally left King Saul when he continued to make bad decisions. An evil spirit came in His place. Under the Old Covenant, God sent His Spirit to special people for special assignments. If they violated their calling, the Spirit left. David prayed after committing adultery, “Take not your Holy Spirit from me.” He knew the influence of God’s presiding Spirit, and hoped he would not be left on his own after grievous sin.
The New Covenant, with better promises than the Old, makes our bodies the temple of the Holy Spirit throughout our life in Christ. This means that we have immediate and ongoing access to God the Spirit—for guidance, teaching, encouragement, exhortation, and empowering. What a powerful and precious gift.
This also means that our actions impact the God within, hardly a distant deity, as close as our breath, a part of every emotion we feel. The Spirit of grace leads us to speak grace. The context of our verse of not grieving the Spirit is getting rid of all forms of sin, including unwholesome talk, bitterness, and unforgiveness. When we choose to resist His direction and speak shame, grumbling or criticizing (29), the Spirit of truth is grieved. Can we tell? Yes, if we sensitize ourselves to the God in our body, no if we are only alive to our personal well-being.
The Greeks believed in gods who were above pain, beyond our ability to impact for good or evil. They considered it a weakness that mortals could have an effect on the gods. But the prophet wrote, “In all their affliction he was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9). In the incarnation the Man of Sorrows entered our suffering. When Jesus left, the lives of the apostolic community were invaded by the Spirit. Instead of Immanuel (God with us), it was and is God within us. We can bring joy to the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit can also be grieved, quenched, resisted, lied to, insulted, or blasphemed.
God is not above feeling, and that should delight us. One thing I loved about my parents is that they were moved by what moved us. When a sister faced difficult trials in college, I gave her advice, but my mother cried with her. She was reflecting the heart of the Father. Jesus told about His Father in the story of the prodigal son, a father moved by the pain of his wayward boy, full of forgiveness. Mercy is moved by misery rather than being coldly detached. I could give advice without feeling my sister’s deep struggle; my mom couldn’t escape it. Neither can the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t vacate the premises when injured—but He grieves. Praise Him for it, and seek to give Him pleasure!