Our church recently lost a long-standing elder who was loved by many. His wife and he had been together since they were teens, and at the time of his death, her beloved husband was 85 years old. His widow, and those who knew him, loved him, and were loved by him, are grieving.
I’m not good at funerals or with grief. I have a tendency to want to make the hurt go away, right away. But we can’t take away the hurt when we lose those we love. There is no magical solution to cure the pain of grief.
Since sin entered the world, grief has been a part of our lives. Adam and Eve grieved the loss of their son Abel at the hands of their son Cain. Abraham mourned the loss of his wife and purchased a field to bury her in. Joseph wept when his father died and had him embalmed. Those around him wept with Joseph in his grief. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus and traveled to be near those who loved him.
There are often similarities in the ways we grieve, but there are also great differences. Some cry. Some gather together. Some wade through photo albums. Some make preparations. Some go about their day. Some can’t seem to get out of bed.
When our congregation lost this beloved elder, I cried and baked a plethora of pumpkin cookies. I also called a friend of mine who happens to be an LCMS pastor. I told him of my own grief and also of the grief that I knew the man’s wife was experiencing. I told him all the wonderful things about this man and the hole our congregation and his family would experience.
Looking Forward to the Resurrection
His response was simple and comforting.
He said that we look forward to the resurrection. He was honest in saying that it does not take away the pain, the cookie baking, or the tears. He encouraged me to keep crying and baking cookies.
Then he posed a question to me.
What would our grief look like if the resurrection were tomorrow? What if it were in three days? a week? a month? six months? a year? What if we could circle a day on our calendars to look forward to the resurrection?
Jesus knew when His friend Lazarus had died that He would restore his life. But He still wept. There is still pain but there is also hope.
Our grief and our hope reside together.
Living with Grief
Being asked about how my grief would change if the resurrection were tomorrow flipped a switch in my brain. It went from being a theological tenet to something tangible we can look forward to, just as we do events on our calendars. It reminded me in a very real and tangible way of our baptismal promises and the hope we have. I cannot put a date on the calendar of when this will happen, but I can look forward to it with even more certainty than all of the other things I do have written in my planner.
It did not take the grief away at the first congregational meeting we had without him. It does not take the sting from my eyes when I see his widow in church on Sunday. It does not remedy the heartache of not seeing him smiling at me or my kids. But it does bring comfort knowing and remembering that death does not get the final answer.
In our loss of loved ones, we grieve and we look forward to the resurrection. We have certainty in the promises of our Baptism, and that brings comfort to our pain.
Join author Michael Newman in his book Getting Through Grief as he shares eight gifts that God provides to His children in times of sorrow and loss.