Final farewells! The empty spot once filled by a beloved friend and companion glares with the painful reminder of your loss. Memories of the downward spiral to the end of their vitality and our connection with them dampen the heart. This scenario is celebrated by the author of evil, our mortal enemy who relishes the repetition of this event for every human being. His day is now, but it is not forever.
I have, sadly, watched several people very close to me come to the end of their appointed days. To see their humanity diminish under the regimen of pain control is difficult. To hear the ramblings of a confused mind is upsetting. To watch helplessly as the body deteriorates is brutal. Death is just wrong in every aspect. You know it in your bones! But every one of us faces this experience, both as a spectator and a participant.
Walking this out with a loved one is indeed a stressful experience, but if you are a child of God you are not without comfort. Our Jesus wept at his friend Lazarus’ tomb, and then called him back to life. He draws near in our grief as well. Death’s triumph is temporary, but in the meantime, we need consolation. The Father also notices. His tender heart never intended this for us, but He allowed us to choose our wills over His – which brought the inevitable consequence of death. Yet He doesn’t vindictively leave us to face it alone! One of His titles is ‘the father of mercies and the God of all encouragement’. This is no empty platitude!
I know it is overwhelming. Our grief and pain can obscure the imprint of our destiny. We ‘know’ that our loved one is better off, but we don’t care because we miss them. That’s ok, normal, understandable. But in that dark valley remember that you are not alone! I can’t help but think of that picture that was so common years ago called “Footprints in the Sand”. God has brought it to mind during these days of goodbyes. The gist of the poem is ‘Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, You would walk with me all the way; But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints in the sand. I don’t understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me.” His reply was that those were the times He carried her. I always considered it kind of cheesy, but I have experienced its truth. So did the children of Israel as they wandered towards their new home. “And you saw in the wilderness how the LORD your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place.” Deuteronomy 1:31
Have you found that God is there for you? Have you been seeing Him in your readings, what you listen to, circumstances of life, do you sense His presence, connect in prayer? If not, put yourself in that place where you can listen and pay attention. Your Father knows you better than you know yourself, better than your friends, better than your spouse! He knows just what you need to hear. He alone can drown out the voices that whine regret, loneliness, loss, hurt, guilt and gently soothe your hurting heart. Grief may dull the feeling of His care, but He is near to all who call upon Him.
Suffering is our common lot. Sympathy is the kindness we extend to one another, sharing the burden of loss. We can share the comfort that we ourselves have received from our loving Father. In fact, sometimes we may suffer so as to be a help to someone else. I love Paul’s encouragement to his friends after a time of intense distress in his own life. “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Co 1:3 Message
So let us grieve, and let us hope. Let us envision the day when we will join with others who have said “It was worth it all!”. A great cloud of witnesses cheers us on, and as we come down the home stretch, although we cannot hear it with our ears, they are shouting for us to persevere! Let us hope with the hobbit that ‘all things sad will become untrue’ one day. And of course we must quote Mr Lewis here: “[Some mortals] say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”—C. S. Lewis –The Great Divorce, chapter 9.
“As (Jesus) hangs stretched out between heaven and earth, He asks us to look our mortality straight in the face and trust (Him) that death does not have the last word.” Henri Nouwen Let hope win over grief!
A little bonus below, a link to Paul Zach singing about our common struggle.