Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on June 26, 2017
One of the great privileges of being a pastor is the opportunity to share with families and individuals at key moments in their lives. Last week offers a great example as I attended or participated in three funerals, one wedding and spent the week at camp with middle school youth.
At times the emotional swings can be extreme within the same day. I will never forget the afternoon I officiated the funeral of a husband/father. Family and friends were still numb as the death came quickly and unexpectedly. There were many tears of sadness, questions of “why?” and plans for the future that had simply vanished. Hurting for the family, I left the graveside and hurried back to the church where a bride and groom were waiting on me to lead and participate in their wedding rehearsal and dinner. Family and friends surrounded the bride and groom with great joy and laughter in anticipation of their marriage. The celebration had begun.
Later that evening I returned home to process the day and the emotional roller coaster I had experienced over the last hours. I was drained, but began reflecting on a couple of important questions. How do we cope with the emotional and relational swings of life? How do we make our way through the births, marriages, and deaths of life?
In writing to the church at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul points his readers to hope. He writes, “we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who have died, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” Hope and grief are two ways we manage the ups and downs of life.
First, life encompasses seasons of grief. The death of a loved one is a time to grieve. Grieving offers a healthy way to process death and loss in our lives. The steps of grief include shock, denial, guilt, anger, sadness, acceptance and the beginning stages of moving forward with life. The steps may come in different order depending on the person and situation, but healthy grief moves us through each of these steps. The trouble comes when we get stuck in one of the steps. This stagnation can lead us into a downward spiral of depression, blame, and darkness which becomes difficult to escape.
Some attempt to ignore grief, but ultimately it demands attention. Death, sickness, loss of a job, broken relationships all create significant seasons of loss in life and must be grieved. Paul acknowledges that for all of us, there is a time to grieve, so let us be aware of our grief and express it in healthy ways.
Second, hope offers the way through grief. Those with hope grieve differently than those without hope. For the Christian, hope is found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus offers the hope of our own resurrection from the dead. Thus, Paul looks to the future and proclaims “we shall always be with the Lord.” He continues, “comfort one another with these words.” Hope in Jesus Christ offers the way through grief as we look to the future and the promise of eternal life.
Life is filled with seasons of celebration and sadness. We come in contact with life and death every day. How are you making your way through this incredible journey called life? Are you finding it difficult to navigate the seasons of loss and grief? If so, I recommend hope in Jesus.