Without the knowledge of our eternal hope, I have no clue how a person handles the loss of a spouse, child or parent. The sorrow and grief brought on by death can be overwhelming even for strong Christians, so it is a mystery to me how anyone handles it without the assurances we have in the Bible of our eternal state.
The sudden loss of a loved one is perhaps the most difficult thing to deal with in this life. When the ability to gracefully grow old and slowly fade away is replaced with the stark reality of someone being here today and gone tomorrow; it is truly an event that radically changes someone and that change is usually not good.
We have an acquaintance whose husband was sent home from the hospital to die due to lung cancer. Because this situation has been festering and brewing for quite some time, the raw emotions attached to the sudden loss of a loved one are missing. Due to having plenty of time to prepare mentally and physically, the spouse is able to function as a wonderful caregiver.
We have another acquaintance who watched in horror last August as his wife, who was driving the car ahead of him, made a left turn in front of a fully loaded dump truck going 70 miles per hour. She was killed instantly and because her husband witnessed the horrific event, he is still devastated six months later. He is finally emerging from his grief, but the process is painful and woefully slow.
None of us know how long our life will be. Most people spend a lifetime trying to prolong their earthly life for they do not believe there is any life worth living after this one. Hundreds of years ago, explorers were trying to find the "fountain of youth" and they still are. People do not want to grow old, get sick, have accidents or anything else that would cut this life short.
Perhaps because of my intense physical battles over the years, I really do not care much if I live another 30 years or another 30 days. This broken down body will one day return to the dust from which it was made and I will be given a new body fashioned like unto the glorious body of the resurrected Christ. Having this hope, I can endure the pain and suffering that comes from dwelling in a less than perfect tabernacle.
We should live each day as a gift from God. We should cherish each time we have to spend with our loved ones as the blessing they are. We should never take for granted anything in this life other than the assurances given to us from God that we have an eternity awaiting us to dwell with our God in paradise. Until then, I pray our hearts can go on singing His praise no matter what happens to us and around us in this life.
A friend of mine at work recently lost his wife. She had been battling cancer and lost. I was not aware of that. I just know that of the Christians I know of at work, he was the one that I could talk with about most anything.
I would not dare go up to him and say, "I understand how you feel," because I don't understand anything, and if you need to grieve, I will be there with you.
He took a about a week off from work. I do not know if I would have gone back, especially if my reason for working was gone. When he came back the only reasonable thing I could think to do was give him a hug and tell him that I loved him.
A sad aspect of this, was that I was off when she died, and I was off when someone posted that there was a memorial service, and I did not get to go. I would have. I do not understand the whys of many things, but there must be a reason.
My life took such a horrible and painful turn almost twenty years ago. Only recently can I say that I finally like myself again, and that is only because I think I am finally doing something close to what God has called me to.
Some things just open doors within us that needed to be aired out.
Thanks for posting this.
A thoughtful and well-written blog. I want to uphold 'remso': when pain is so desperately deep, the best thing you can possibly do is hug and silently grieve alongside your friend. Platitudes and even prayers fall on deaf ears when the pain is so raw. I know by experience. In the blog, one friend was a witness to his wife's tragic death. His grief is therefore exponentially aggravated by trauma. Unfortunately most of the church does not know how to deal with such deep dark pain. I have recently attended some trauma workshops myself and feel that this is an area of need in the church. In general, if you don't understand what a person is going through, don't pretend you do. Just love them back to life in as many quiet ways as the Spirit of God reveals, and help them to carry the burden with the strength Christ gives you. Lord willing, we as the church will once again, as in its inception, become the place where hurting people can turn to gain support and love in their grief.
Some timely and relevant thoughts here - thanks.
This is a good blog; I found myself nodding in agreement. I too have often thought about this.
Just days before I was to propose to my girlfriend, I had talked to my father telling him how I was going to do it. I was very excited and this feeling of joy swept over me. I took a nap that afternoon, and when I woke up that sense of elation remained with me. I walked out into the living room and I opened the box containing her engagement ring; and as I looked at it, smiling; a loud bang suddenly reverberated throughout the apartment. It startled me so much I very nearly dropped the ring. Whatever had caused that noise must have been bad because all my windows were closed. After a few minutes, I went outside and saw several people on the hilltop by the entrance of my complex. I went over there and saw the scene of a horrible accident. The driver had failed to yield turning left and a utility van collided with her sedan. She was thrown from the car and died a few days later, as did the driver of the utility van. Now there are two pots of flowers with their names by the intersection that I pass every day as I leave my apartment. It hung over me like a cloud that as a new chapter in my life was about to begin, two lives had just ended. It reminded me of the importance of the time that I have.
To have faith is to be aware of one's own impermanence. We know that because we live in a fallen world, everything is in a perpetual state of flux, of change, and that there is no permanent state of being. We do not fear the shadow of death because we know that it is there, and it looms over all that we do. We know that we cannot outrun it. We know that we cannot shine a light on it to make it disappear. Instead, as Christians we learn to keep pace with death's shadow. We accept death for what it is; the product of a fallen, broken world. And through that realization, that awareness, we must cultivate a deep appreciation for the present moment, for it is all we have. We do not know when death's shadow will finally overtake us, so we must be thankful for every moment that it does not. And to have faith is to know that his shadow is not our ultimate end. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has given us a glimpse behind the curtain, and one day we will move through that curtain to be with Him.
By contrast, those without faith, as you say, often spend their lives running from the reality of death. You ride the waves and don't ask where they go. You attach yourself desperately to whatever you can along the way so you don't have to contemplate what lies ahead on the journey. This is the difference, if you ask me. For us, we appreciate the present moment because we see the end in sight. For them, they cling to the present moment because that is all they want to see. The Bible teaches us to be willing to let go; our materialist society teaches us to hold fast.
I have found that in dealing with those who are grieving, Christian or non-Christian, it is best to just show up. To simply be there. A simple hug, or sitting with the person in silence may mean more than any supposed words of comfort we could offer them. We want them to feel that they are not alone; and sometimes we can convey the love of Christ best with just our presence.
[quote]We should live each day as a gift from God. We should cherish each time we have to spend with our loved ones as the blessing they are. We should never take for granted anything in this life other than the assurances given to us from God that we have an eternity awaiting us to dwell with our God in paradise. Until then, I pray our hearts can go on singing His praise no matter what happens to us and around us in this life. [/quote] And Lord, please remind me on a daily basis that this is how I desire to be.
Thank you B2Y
I got to talk with a friend that went to school with my brother, who was killed in Vietnam, just recently. He also was in Vietnam at the same time as my brother, and was stationed just a few miles away from where my brother was stationed. He shared with me how that the both of them had traveled over to where the other was camped, but always missed each other.
The night my brother was killed, he was coming over to visit him, the next morning, early. He said that they were having a memorial for my brother, when he arrived. After 45 years, he still broke down and cried as he shared that with me. It is always traumatic, when they die suddenly.
Thank you for sharing what you did. I really enjoyed it. God Bless you brother. I agree with your message.
This touched a chord with me. I've had the experience of having relatives die suddenly and unexpectedly in accidents or an physical issue which seemed to come from out of nowhere. I have watched others, including my own father, battle terminal illness for a time. I know what it is like to have someone tell me that I have cancer and I know what it is like to go to sleep one night and discover days later that you have been in intensive care.
The thing that has meant the most to me is not someone telling me it will be all right or about someone else who had it and is now fine or that they "understand". They don't know the future, I'm not someone else, and unless someone has told you that you have cancer... you don't understand. I'm not asking you to do those things. Neither is anyone else who is in crisis. We simply want to know that we are not standing in the dark alone. That's all. We simply want to know that someone loves us and cares about us. We simply want someone to hold our hand or let us cry on their shoulder.
Often people say, "I don't know what to say." The good news is, you don't have to say anything. Your compassion and love will come through. Trust me on that one.
One other thing. I know people mean well when they say things like, "Well, they're with the Lord now." They know that and will find comfort in that but not right at that moment. Right now the person has an open wound for they can no longer hold the person whom they love so much. Let them guide the conversation. Your job is to listen and love.