The month of February has been a difficult one for our church fellowship. We have had one dear brother, just baptized a few weeks ago, die far too early from cancer. A family member in our congregation has also lost their young brother this past week. There are other struggles also: just last night a family had to rush their baby to the emergency room with croup; more than one family is facing the discouragement of a long and protracted (and thus far unfulfilled…) job search. The local church fellowship is like an enlarged family, according to the Bible. The church is “God’s household – the pillar and foundation of truth.” We are to be in such a close relationship with each other that our victories – and our pains – are shared.
“So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:26
So – many of us are suffering this month, because a few of us are suffering this month. And that is how it should be – part of what it means to “bear each other’s burdens, thus fulfilling the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2. Christians do not “grieve like those who have no hope,” but we must, in fact, grieve. As Jesus wept when he lost a dear friend, so must we weep sometimes in a world that is not our home. Far too often when somebody is grieving, our response is to try and SAY something banal or hackneyed in the hopes that the person we are speaking to will instantaneously “cheer up!” We generally do this because we don’t like being sad, and we don’t want somebody else’s grief to bring us down. We humans can be quite selfish that way. Generally speaking, the best way to help somebody that is suffering is not to give them a cliche’d quote, but to suffer with them – showing them by your time, your tears, and your obvious love that they are NOT ALONE. Here’s writer and speaker Nancy Guthrie, a mom who has lost two of her children, on how to comfort those who are in deep sorrow:
“Grief is a very lonely experience. You know, even if all your friends are there for you in the best way possible — your spouse is there for you, all of those things — the essence of grief is a deep, pervasive loneliness. And it means so much for people around us to overcome the awkwardness — and maybe even the desire and fears that I’ll say the wrong thing — to say something. Honestly, the most painful thing is when you’ve had a loss and someone around you—because of the awkwardness — never acknowledges it. That’s what hurts the most. Because what it says to you is that person you love who died doesn’t even really merit a mention. And that’s devastating….But for many of us, when you’re carrying this huge load of sorrow and you look up, and you see someone who is shedding tears — that they are so identifying with your loss that they are in a sense carrying some of the load of sorrow for you — that’s an incredible gift to give to someone who’s grieving.” Source: Nancy Guthrie
The quotes below are not at all meant to be a substitute for the real work of loving those in grief. They are merely meant to assist us in grieving as those who do, in fact, have hope. May they be an encouragement to you:
- “Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:3-5
- “How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.” C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed, which was written after the slow and painful death of his wife. Lewis here shows us that grief will not always be banished away with platitudes. It persists. Some tears won’t be fully wiped away until the return of Jesus. So – weep with those who weep.
- “When sometimes all has been dark, exceedingly dark, with reference to my service among the saints, judging from natural appearances; yea, when I should have been overwhelmed indeed in grief and despair, had I looked at things after the outward appearance; at such times I have sought to encourage myself in God, by laying hold in faith on His mighty power, His unchangeable love, and His infinite wisdom, and I have said to myself: God is able and willing to deliver me, if it be good for me; for it is written: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32.” – George Mueller, the founder of orphan houses that ultimately cared for over 10000 orphans – and never asked any human for financial support.
- “But our groaning is not the final word. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will one day raise our ailing parents, gone-too-soon children, and cancer-ridden spouses, friends, and family members (Rom. 8:11). Through our suffering we are made like him and assured that we are his children. The Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies on that last day (Rom. 8:16-17).” Courtney Reissig, a young mother writing about the miscarriage of her precious baby.
- “If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.” C.S. Lewis – A Grief Observed. This. THIS is Lewis in all of his gifting – genuine, wrestling, not dismissing grief as a light trial, but showing grief and death as what it truly is – a greater power – a devastating foe. I believe this is why death is the last enemy to be destroyed by God. (1 Corinthians 15:26) It is the final boss – a grievously powerful thing that only cowers in the presence of the Godhead.
- “The best four word description of what it is like to follow Jesus might just be: ‘Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.‘ ” (2nd Corinthians 6:10)
- “The Christian also knows disappointments as bitter and as intense as other men and women. Judas betrays Christ, Ahithophel is a traitor to David. We have had our Ahithophels, and we may yet meet with our Judas. We have trusted in friends, and we have found their friendships fail. We have leaned on what seemed to be a staff, and it has pierced us like a spear. You cannot, dear friends, pass through the wilderness of this world without discovering that thorns and thistles grow abundantly in it, and that, step as you may, your feet must sometimes feel the sudden and unexpected wound. The sea of life is salt to all men. Clouds hover over every landscape. We may forget to laugh, but we will always know how to weep. As the saturated clouds must drip, so must the human race, cursed by the fall, weep out its frequent griefs…In heaven, the redeemed will never suffer the grief associated with attending funerals of their friends and loved ones. The grave digger and the casket don’t exist there. The horrid thought of death never enters the mind of an immortal spirit. They are never separated; the great meeting has taken place and God’s children will never separate again. In heaven they have no losses and crosses in business. “They serve God day and night in his temple.” There are no broken friendships there. There are no broken hearts, no shattered dreams. They know fully, even as they are fully known, and they love even as they are loved. No pain can ever come on them; for their resurrected bodies will be raised from the grave and will be glorified, thus they will not be capable of grief. The tear gland will not exist; although much of the human body remains, at least the tear gland will be gone, they will have no need of that organ; their bodies will be unable to experience grief; they will rejoice forever. Poverty, famine, distress, helplessness, danger, persecution, slander, all these will have ceased. “The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.” “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst,” and therefore tears will never flow again.” Charles Spurgeon.
- “Living in a world that is groaning for redemption is hardly easy. It requires more than we have to give at times. The very Spirit who brought Christ from the cold, dark grave will do the same for us. And when we don’t have eyes of faith to see as clearly as we ought, he intercedes on our behalf. So while we live in this broken world we have hope. Not that it will be easy. Not that we will always feel able to endure. But that this Christ, who will make all things right one day, is sustaining us and making us like him in every gut-wrenching sorrow.” Courtney Reissig
- “Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity.
- “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life,appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4