Sunday, October 11, 2015

Loss . Pain . Grief . Hope

It’s been a week.  It’s been a week I’d rather did not happen, at least the way it played out.  This weekend I had the humble but sad privilege of speaking at a friend’s funeral; she died at age 48, unexpectedly.  Earlier this week I saw Sheri’s picture staring back on me on FaceBook and the postings told me what I did not want to know.

The small country church was “standing room only” and the community came to love on the family of one of its own.  It was one of those breathtaking beautiful autumn days with mild temperatures, trees brilliant with color and clear skies.  It was far from the Hollywood version of the rainy, dark day where everyone wears black and carries umbrellas to the grave site.

I made the 1 hour drive through the countryside of the U. P. to find cars parked up and down the road, filling the parking areas of the Felch Mountain Bible Chapel.  By the time I arrived, there was nowhere to sit so I decided to stand… until a wonderful, kind gentleman offered me his seat.  I was grateful for an aisle seat as I was scheduled to be a speaker.

The room was warm reflecting the warm fall day.  It was also a room filled with people and emotion.  Sheri’s family and friends represented a variety of faith backgrounds, life experiences and ages.  They united at that service to honor Sheri and, in many cases, to honor God.  My heart was overflowing with thanksgiving that God had allowed me to walk with this very beloved woman through some challenging times in the last 3 years of her life. Her obedience to God’s call on her life meant impacting others with her major life changes.

As if this were not enough, this week brought others I love into difficult places:  a friend had a heart problem and was rushed to the hospital (now doing well, praise God!), a first child/grandchild born with lung problems, an acquaintance who told me to not bring a pre scheduled meal because her cancer stricken husband had taken a bad turn and who knew what was next?

And then there is the teen girl whose daddy died, the friends struggling with marriage issues, the dear lady whose cancer has returned.  It’s been a week of sorrow and sadness.

OK, ok….you have had enough of this heaviness, I’m sure.  I wanted to declare a war on bad news myself this week.  But no matter what I did or said, life continued to throw some punches at people I love.  And putting my head under the covers did not help for long. 

This is really a cliché but I am not beyond using whatever drives a point home; you’ve heard it said “we can either get bitter or better”.  My version would be more like: we can ask why, be angry and bitter….OR, we can choose to trust a God Who is worthy of our trust.  As the Bible says in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I don’t know why certain people have cancer, why some people die before they reach old age, why all babies are not born healthy, why a teenager loses a parent, or why all marriages that start strong don’t end with a “happily ever after”.  I do know that sin entering our world hugely impacted everything but that is about the best I can do.

What I know to be sure and true is this: Jesus provided the way to ultimately enter into perfect union with Him through His work on the cross (John 14:6) and we who have surrendered our lives to Him, have that great hope. 

What I experienced today, in that wonderful country church was an unbelievable application of 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.  Basically these verses describe the kind of comfort God gives us as we minister to the hearts and souls of each other…..because we worship a God Who comforts us in all of our struggles.

The “why?”question brings us to a dead end with no relief.  But when we examine the Truth of God’s Word we DO get great glimpses into God’s purposes for us, even in the midst of this very temporary existence we call “life”.  Today, amidst the great sadness and grief, there was also joy and hope.  There were hugs and handshakes, soul soothing music and uplifting words.  But best of all, grief was honored, Sheri was remembered, Jesus was lifted up and the sun/Son was still shining. 

For Sheri’s family and close friends, there will be a time of great grieving and the many emotions that accompany painful loss.  I will be praying for them as they navigate their way through the “weeds”.  May they come to know the beauty that only God can bring out of the “ashes” of pain in this life.  May they experience the rainbow that comes only after the storm.

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