Saturday, December 16, 2023
What do we do with brothers and sisters in Christ who have lost loved ones to death?
When we look at John chapter 11 and Jesus' journey to be with Martha and Mary after their brother Lazarus died, we can learn some important ways to help those grieving around us. When we lose someone we love who is a follower of Jesus; we have one solid bedrock truth we can share with them. While this bedrock truth is not something we should probably share first, it is the truth on which we build everything we say and do! What is that truth? Your loved one will rise again! , because of their faith in Jesus, they are not dead but with Jesus.  You will be reunited with them when Jesus returns in glory, and we will all share together in the joy of the Lord's victory and our reunion with believers from all times and places.  Our hope and confidence in grief are in this future that we have in Jesus!
That said, we probably don't need to lead with cheerily sharing these things with them from afar — social media, text, phone, or letter. At least not initially. Jesus didn't send a message from far away. He didn't send a messenger to tell Martha and Mary of His sadness, grief, and anger.  Jesus waited a few days, then He went in person to comfort and bless them. While we cannot know all the reasons He delayed, we can notice that He did not rush His conversations with Martha and Mary, nor did He have them from afar. He went in person. He not only empathized with their grief and anger, but He also demonstrated his grief, anger, and love. Bodily presence, listening, and loving are often the three most needed companions for someone in grief. They don't need greeting card slogans or refrigerator magnet trite-isms in the face of their profound loss. They need our loving presence and empathic listening.
What do we say?
Usually, not much at first. We love them. We demonstrate that love through practical and loving actions, especially listening and affirming their sorrow. Notice that Jesus didn't reprimand Martha and Mary for their frustration with Him not being there to stop Lazarus from dying.  Instead, Jesus wept with them in their sorrow!  God does not need us to be His defense lawyer in moments like these. Instead, God wants us to be His loving, supportive, listening presence. The collection of Psalms reminds us that God allowed and even condoned people to be honest, even brutally and angrily honest, with Him in their sorrow, grief, loss, and pain. They need to know that nothing can separate us, or their loved ones, from the love God has for us in Christ Jesus.  That promise to never forsake us includes our times of anger and frustration with God in our grief!
Eventually, God will open the door for us to remind our grieving friends about the truths of our first paragraph and the promises for our futures in glory. That reminder will usually wait while the person expresses grief, anger, sorrow, loss, disappointment, and frustration. Our being there to love them during this time helps them know God is not abandoning them. As time passes, however, we can say the powerful truths to them that Jesus said to these sisters:
Father, I ask for Your help, Jesus' love, and the Holy Spirit's compassionate concern as I seek to bless those walking through grief. Guard me against using trite sayings and throwaway platitudes that can wound the person I am trying to comfort, strengthen, and bless. May my words be what You want to be said. May my demeanor reflect the kindness and strength of Jesus. May my presence be loving, tender, supportive, helpful, and encouraging. Most of all, Holy Spirit, please do Your work of comforting the brokenhearted through me. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Together in Christ is a daily devotional that focuses on what Scripture teaches about godly living in relationships.
'Together in Christ' is written by Phil Ware.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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