What Does It Mean to Grieve the Holy Spirit?

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

Everyone experiences some level of grief in their life. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or simply a matter of graduating from high school and moving on from the life that you have come to know. But, one of the wonderful things about God is that He is also a person and is able to have emotions. Like us, He also can experience grief. Since the Holy Spirit is God, He can also grieve. Likewise, there are things that we can do that cause Him to grieve as the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a moment to understand from Scripture what does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?

God is a person

As it was just stated, God is a person. Therefore, as a person, we would expect that He would have personality. In 1 John 5:7 in the King James Bible we see the following: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” (Note: Some modern versions have removed this verse and split verse eight into two verses). “The Word” in this verse, refers to Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14). This is not saying there are three gods. It is saying there are three manifestations of one God. An example would be water, which can be ice, liquid, or steam. One substance called water or H2O, but three different forms that we can experience and interact with. The amazing thing however is that God can be all three at the same time! Therefore, the Father, the Word (Son), and the Holy Spirit can all exist at the same time.

We will not go into this any deeper, but the important thing is that we realize that when the Holy Spirit enters us at the moment of salvation, God enters us along with all His attributes (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:9-14; 2 Corinthians 5:5). Likewise, if we are made in the image of God, then we have the capability to have the same attributes of God (1 John 3:2-3). These personal attributes are what give us the ability to have personality. Therefore, if we have personality, it would be expected that God demonstrates His personality in the manifestations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see examples of this as follows (1):

  • He creates, as seen in Genesis 1:1.
  • He destroys, as seen in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 and 19.
  • He provides, as seen in Psalm 104:27-30.
  • He cares, as seen in 1 Peter 5:6-7.
  • He hears, as seen in Psalm 94:9-10.
  • He hates, as seen in Proverbs 6:16.
  • He loves, as seen in John 3:16; John 15:13; and 1 John 4:7-11
  • He is merciful, as seen in Deuteronomy 4:31
  • He is graceful, as seen in Ephesians 2:8-9
  • Finally, He grieves, as seen in Genesis 6:6 and Ephesians 4:30.
  • How do we grieve God?

If you think about it, if God loves us and wants for us to have a personal relationship with Him, then as a person, He has the capacity to grieve. What is it that would cause Him to grieve? We see a good explanation of this in Psalms 78 where God provided everything that the Israelites needed, yet they still caused Him to grieve. Psalms 78:40-41 says: “How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.”

Reading through this chapter we see that there were many things that they did to cause God grief as seen in Psalms 78:56-58:

“Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies: But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.”

We see from this passage that the Israelites provoked God. They did not keep His testimonies. They turned back from doing what God wanted them to do and started behaving like their forefathers that we heathen idolaters and liars. Finally, they worshiped other Gods. Practically speaking, they did everything to demonstrate that they did not love God, but instead loved the ways of the world. These things are what grieves God.

In the New Testament, we also see mention of how we as believers can grieve God in Ephesians 4:30, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” What are some of the things mentioned that grieve God? We see the answer is pretty much the same as the Israelites in Ephesians 4:17-19 and as follows:

“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

What does God want us to do?

The most obvious thing is that He wants us to demonstrate our love for Him because of what He did for us (1 John 4:19). He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. In other Words, He wants us to live like Jesus. We see this mentioned in Ephesians 4:31-32 and Colossians 3:12-17 as follows:

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)


One of the wonderful things about God is that He is also a person and is able to have emotions. Like us, He also can experience grief. Since the Holy Spirit is God, He can also grieve. Likewise, there are things that we can do that cause Him to grieve as the Holy Spirit. To prevent us from grieving the Holy Spirit, God wants us to demonstrate our love for Him because of what He did for us. When we allow Him to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, it pleases God.

Read more about the Holy Spirit here: Who or What is the Holy Spirit?

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Williams, Michael, (2013). Bible Doctrines. Albuquerque, NM: Selah Mountain Bible Institute.

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