When death take what matters most to us, we go through a storm of emotions. Pain, anger, regret, questions, anxiety, and often unbearable emotional trauma. We ache for genuine comfort. Yet even though we stumble through this maze, there is hope. When someone we love dies, we may question the wisdom or the goodness of God. When death comes after long-term suffering, we struggle to understand why God waited so long to bring relief. We sometimes begin to think of God as distant, and untouched by our sorrow. We ask, why?
Luke Veldt in his book, Written in Tears: A Grieving Father’s Journey Through Psalm 103, shares the story of the death of his daughter Allision. According to him, she was a normal, healthy thirteen-year-old, active, and happy – until the day she was found slumped over the table at home. Through slurred speech to told them her legs were numb, and she could not lift her head.
They rushed her to the hospital within fifteen minutes and endured an anxious wait, while there was a flurry of activity by the medical staff. As Christians they believed that God could heal her. Other friends and family believed the same and prayed as well. In a short few hours Allision was dead.
Her father Luke writes that her mother, notwithstanding the fact that they both were Christians for over forty years, that same night through her tears, asked; Is it all true? Is any of it true? Is there a God, and is Alli with Him?
He had no answer. Forty years of faith, distilled in that moment to a single paralysing thought: Is any of it true? Is there really a God?
Christmas day 25th December 2022, I received a call from my mother that my uncle had died after two massive strokes. I was required to find a flight and return to Guyana (South America) to shoulder the burden of arranging the funeral.
As the eldest male and perceived leader of the family pure adrenaline kicked in to ensure everything was done to a high standard. I had no time to mourn.
On the day of the funeral, I visited the mortuary to take the burial attire. I was invited in to view the body of my uncle – it was at that point that the reality of his death hit me like a cannon ball in the stomach. He was really gone!
A week later my immune system was compromised due to fatigue and grief. I became sick. Sleeping at night was a nightmare. There was no energy for motivation, and small tasks seemed enormous. Getting out of bed was like trying to climb a very high and steep mountain.
Living after the death of a loved one is like a painful continuous kick in the stomach. It knocks you off balance; takes away your desire to move on; and in many instances even to live. You are caught between wishing you were dead and not caring to live either.
So where does the hope come from? For me hope is a process. It begins with a simple question, what would my uncle want me to do? Knowing him, he would want me to live, laugh, smile, do good and be happy!
Secondly, for those of us who have a faith in a higher power, we can turn there. For me, I discovered these words in the Scriptures:
“For as the skies are high above the earth,
so his loyal love towers over his faithful followers.
As far as the eastern horizon is from the west,
so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on his faithful followers.
For he knows what we are made of;
he realizes we are made of clay.”
For most people reading this poem, they would notice two beautiful illustrations of God’s love: the immeasurable distance between earth and heaven as a graphic description of the love He has for us; and the horizonal timelessness of stretching across the hemispheric canopy of East and West.
However, there is another potent endearing masterpiece that brings love closer to home – "As a father has compassion on his Children so the Lord has compassion on humanity".
My friend God shares our grief! He knows our pain, heartaches, disappointments, and sufferings.
“The Bible was written in tears, and to tears it will reveal its best treasures.”
God is in this with us. Contrary to popular opinion, He is not aloof, detached, controlling everything from afar. He is not untouched by His own decisions, He is deeply involved and personally affected. He knows how you feel right now. He knows what it is like to see a Child die.
John 3:16 echoes this down through the annals of time, “For God so loved the World that He gave His only son…” this is how He demonstrated His love for us.
Finally, we can find hope and support in the community of people, loved ones, family, true friends and supporters who flood us with love unselfishly during and after bereavement. There are always genuine people who we can lean on when death takes away our loved ones.
If we look carefully into their eyes, we will see a practical hope that says I will be there for you, and we will get through this together.
You don’t have to walk alone.
Dr. Kirk Thomas is a Pastor and Clinical Pastoral Chaplain.