This past week one of our Brothers in Christ lost his lovely wife. I say lost but that is actually a misnomer as he knows exactly where she is. She is with her heavenly father experiencing the indescribable joys of heaven.
The Bible says: “Sometimes something useless happens on earth. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.” Ecclesiastes 8:14 When we lose a family member, dear friend, or someone we have loved deeply and shared our lives with, we are left with a grief that can paralyze us emotionally for a long time. People we love deeply become part of who we are. The ways we react to the world, the way we think about who we are and the very way we live our daily lives become happily codetermined by them. Wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and our closest friends live with us in our hearts. They are part of our emotional DNA and when they die a part of us also dies. This is the essence of grief. It is a very gradual and sorrowful departure of a person that has become part of us. When a special event happens such as a holiday, anniversary or birthday, or when our hearts are exult by a special piece of music or a spectacular view, a shadow of sadness may pass over us and for a time we may be once again overwhelmed with grief.
But there is joy is hidden in sorrow and likewise sorrow in joy. If we try to avoid sorrow, we may never taste joy, and if we are apprehensive of happiness, anguish can never reach us either. Henri Nouwen said that, joy and sorrow are the parents of our spiritual growth. He described dying as a gradual diminishing and final vanishing over the horizon of life. He talks about watching a sail boat leaving port and moving toward the horizon, it becomes smaller and smaller until we can no longer see it. But we must trust that someone is standing on a faraway shore seeing that same sailboat become larger and larger until it reaches its new harbor. Death is a painful loss. When we return to our homes after a burial, our hearts are in grief. But when we think about the One standing at the other shore eagerly waiting to welcome our beloved into a new home, a smile can break through our tears and joy can enter into our sorrow. So what should we do when tragedy strikes?
RELEASE OUR GRIEF – We are told not to deny it or ignore it just talk to God through prayer and tell Him how we feel. “God is our refuge.” Psalms 62:8 “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirt. Psalm 34:18
RECEIVE HELP FROM OTHERS – Don’t isolate ourselves. Find support in our church, our small groups, and with our friends and family. “Carry each other’s burden…” Galatians 6:2 “By helping each other with your troubles, you obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 Wehave a choice. God has given us the desire and capacity to enter into “doing life together.” Through our relationships we can drive a stake through loneliness and grief that can otherwise darken our lives. It is scary, it is risky, it is time consuming, and can even be messy and frustrating but it is worth it. As C.S. Lewis observed in his book The Weight of Glory “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations -these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit…Next tothe Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
REFUSE TO BE BITTER – We all have the choice to be bitter or better. “Some people have no happiness at all….it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives…Hebrews 12:15
So how can we avoid bitterness after tragedy enters our lives? By accepting what cannot be changed. “Reach out to God…then face the world again, firm and courageous.” Job 11:13, 16 Focus on what’s left, not what is lost. No matter what happens, always be thankful for this is God’s will for you.” Thessalonians 5:18.
REMEMBER WHAT’S IMPORTANT. Relationships not things are what matter. “Jesus said…Life is not measured by how much one owns.” Luke 12:15 “We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it” 1 Timothy 6:7
RELY ON CHRIST – This is the secret of strength in tough times. “I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens. I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13. So how can we do this? We can learn to lean on Christ for stability. “Those who trust in the LORD are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever. Psalms 125:1 “You, Lord give true peace to those who depend on you.” Isaiah 26:3
We can listen to Christ for direction. “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you peace and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11
We can look to Christ for Salvation. “God is our protection and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid even if the earth shakes or mountains fall into the sea.” Psalms 46:2
God has uniquely equipped us to jointly experience life’s joys and sorrows, to encourage one another, to serve each other, and to “do life” together. This Saturday morning, as we have for many years we will meet in a familiar place around familiar tables to do just that. This week we will again be stretching each other’s faith as we continue our study of God’s word.