A couple of weeks ago, a long-time friend of mine passed away. He had a long full life, but it is still hard. He had asked me to officiate at his memorial service. His family honored his request. I was blessed to do so. I wanted to do something special for him, so I wrote a free style poem to read at his service which I have added at the end of this message on grieving. We are all faced with grieving at times throughout our life.
Paul Harvey tells the true story of a lady who went to a newspaper to report the death of her husband. She took a glowing four-page report to the obituary counter. Upon seeing it, the news clerk said, “Ma’am, you should know that it costs $.50 a word to put that in the paper.” Stunned, the wife took it back and re-wrote it. It now said, “Sam Brown dies.” The clerk said, “I’m sorry ma’am, but there’s a 7-word minimum.” The widow took it back & counting on her fingers wrote: “Sam Brown dies… ’88 Ford for sale.”
Now, we need to understand that realistically grief will not go away that quickly. Ecclesiastes. 3:4 “There is a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance.”
Grief is defined as: “An involuntary emotion you experience when you lose something or someone that is valuable to you.” It is not wrong to experience grief. It’s natural. Paul, a man who experienced loss, wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 “We do not want you to grieve like other people who have no hope.” He doesn’t say, “don’t grieve,” but remember to place your hope in God.
The most common grief is from the loss of a loved one. The loss of a loved one, especially if they are young or the death is sudden may be the hardest kind of grief, but it’s not the only source. The loss of possessions can cause grief. A loss of health can cause grief. It is not uncommon for a person enduring intense grief to have health problems; like insomnia, exhaustion, headaches, anxiety, depression and more.
Many who do not get the promotion they were counting on, or the job they had interviewed for and needed so badly, go into a time of mourning and depression. And grief can come from the loss of a relationship too. Counselors often say that a divorce is tougher to live with than death. They live with the ever-present loss of the partnership, the loss of companionship.
Maybe the clearest Biblical example of someone who lost many of these things is Job. Job was an upright, righteous man of God but he went through a series of tragic losses that may be unparalleled.
Job 1:13-20 “One day when Job’s children were having a feast at the home of their oldest brother, 14 a messenger came running to Job. ‘We were plowing the fields with the oxen,’ he said, ‘and the donkeys were in a nearby pasture. 15 Suddenly the Sabeans attacked and stole them all. They killed every one of your servants except me. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.’ 16 Before he had finished speaking, another servant came and said, ‘Lightning struck the sheep and the shepherds and killed them all. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.’ 17 Before he had finished speaking, another servant came and said, ‘Three bands of Chaldean raiders attacked us, took away the camels, and killed all your servants except me. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.’ 18 Before he had finished speaking, another servant came and said, ‘Your children were having a feast at the home of your oldest son, 19 when a storm swept in from the desert. It blew the house down and killed them all. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.’ 20 Then Job got up and tore his clothes in grief.”
Job lost most of what he had in a matter of moments. He lost his possessions. Job 1 tells us: “he owned 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 1000 head of cattle and 500 donkeys.” Someone calculated that at today’s prices Job’s livestock would have been worth about $1.6 million. He lost his servants, some of whom may have been dear friends. Most importantly, he lost all ten of his children in one accident. On top of all this, we find later in chapter 2, that Job loses his health. He is covered with boils.
How are we to respond to grief? First, for those groeving. Please understand that there are certain things you will go through as you grieve.
There is panic and shock. You’re stunned. When my husband Dave had a brain bleed at 5 AM nearly ten years ago and started gasping for air, I turned the light on to find him turning blue. I didn’t say it out loud but the first thing in my thoughts were, “Dave don’t do this to me.” The thought was there. Just like that. As irrational as it sounds. Panic and shock.
There is denial. This isn’t really happening. I’m going to wake up in a few minutes and find out I’ve been in a nightmare. Dave will walk through that door at any moment coming home from work at the same time that he does every day. But he doesn’t.
There is anger. Even though Dave passed away almost a decade ago, I still on occasion yell at him for not being here to take care of the truck when it breaks down. That’s not my job. The deal was he would take care of the vehicles.
There is depression. I experience times of sorrow in the evenings. I have to stay busy. And there are all those anniversaries to go through the first year. The first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first birthday, stirring up all those memories. And don’t think that second anniversaries are easier. You brace yourself for the first ones, knowing they will be tough, but you’re surprised at the second ones because you made it through them before and you thought the second time would be easier, but it isn’t. Then I try to trick myself by not remembering what day it is so maybe it will come and go before I realize the date.
There is a final stage of acceptance and a return to life. But counselors will tell you that this grieving journey is long and slow. Please understand, if you’re going through this, that there are known, and even predictable phases of this journey you must travel.
So, when someone is grieving, how do you help them? Here are some suggestions. Don’t avoid the person who mourns. We worry sometimes about, “I don’t know what to say.” Don’t think you have to say the right thing. Just be there sitting next to them or just close by them, just listening. It helps somehow to pull them through tough times although you feel like there’s nothing you can do. God bless the friend who just stands by. Understand that the grieving process takes a long time. Be patient.
Don’t think it’s necessary to bring it up every time you’re with them. Don’t say, “How are you really doing?” Don’t push. Do be willing to reminisce. Sometimes we think they won’t want to hear something about their loved one. When folks share with me a memory they have of Dave, it is comforting.
It is important that those going through grief understand the Lord offers some incredible resources to help heal. God promises compassion. You are not going through your grief alone. Jesus knows how you feel because He’s been where you are. The Bible tells what Jesus wanted to do when he heard the news about John the Baptist, his cousin. He wanted to get away from people and be by Himself. He wanted space to grieve. Hebrews 13:4 “God assures us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you.”
In the late 1800’s Horatio G. Spafford, a Christian lawyer from Chicago, experienced the death of his infant son. Within weeks of that devastating loss came the infamous Chicago fire of 1871, which destroyed all his real estate holdings that he had on the shores of Lake Michigan, leaving him almost desolate. In 1873, Spafford, with the help of a friend, planned a trip to Europe, to just get away for a few weeks. And so, on Nov. 19 he placed his wife and four daughters on a luxury liner headed for France. Spafford was going to join them in about a week after he took care of some urgent business. But on Nov. 21, 1873, the ship Spafford’s family was on collided with another vessel and within 12 minutes, sank in the northern Atlantic. In the chaotic moments after the collision, all four daughters were swept away from Mrs. Spafford. She was knocked unconscious but was somehow rescued as one of the few survivors. Back in Chicago, Horatio, heard of the accident and waited anxiously for news about his family. Finally, ten days later, a telegram came to his home, sent from his wife, who was in the hospital. The telegram contained just two words: “Saved – Alone.” He knew that he had lost all four of his girls. Horatio Spafford was devastated. He began to shake uncontrollably and was comforted by his best friend and neighbor, Major Whittle. With Whittle’s help, Horatio Spafford took a ship to France to meet his wife and bring her home. On the journey, he asked the captain to wake him in the middle of the night when they came to the approximate location of the accident. The captain did and as Horatio Spafford looked down in those cold, dark waters, which covered up his four little girls, he wept. And then he went to his cabin and penned the words to what has become a famous hymn.
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul!
It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul
I’d like to share the poem I wrote to my friend who has passed on.
Jack My Friend I don’t think of you as gone away Your new journey has just begun God created your innermost being He knit you together in your mother’s womb You walked through many seasons on this Earth As there are seasons for all things
You had been busy on the road of life God had set before you You want to be remembered as having enjoyed your life But God had set eternity in your heart You couldn’t imagine what God had done for you From beginning to end
Here, in our earthly bodies We suffer from great weakness Diseases overcome us Temptation overcomes us Death overcomes us
Our bodies were designed for life here on earth Our bodies were not designed for the eternity of heaven We all want to get on that Heavenly road But to get on the road to Heaven, first of all, you got to die. Most of us would like to skip that whole process But the chances of us avoiding that are very slim.
Paul said no eye has seen no ear has heard, No mind has conceived what Heaven is like Heaven is a place that defies the imagination Our minds cannot fully comprehend Or understand what it will be like I’m sure you agree, Jack
Jesus says in my Father’s house there are many rooms I know you are enjoying your new place A specific place that was reserved for you Your real home
And Jack, you will get to know God Upfront and personal Face to face Your relationship with God will finally be whole In Heaven, you won’t feel distant from God Because the home you are living in is His home
Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed yet In heaven, you will never grow tired You will never grow weak Because your new body is raised in power You will not be sick or in pain You will not die again
God will wipe away every tear There will be no more grieving No crying, whatsoever Your new body is free from sin Free from disease Free from death
Enjoy Peace be with you And Jack, I changed my mind about turning down that cold glass of water You offered me the last time I saw you. I will take you up on a cold glass of water Please have it waiting for me the next time I see you. God Bless and keep you Until we meet again