Years ago, the great Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis, wrote a book entitled, “A Grief Observed.” In this brief, but poignant volume, he describes his struggle after his wife dies. The pious platitudes and Christian clichés so often employed in the midst of sorrow were found to be hollow. Lewis wavered in maintaining a faith that had seemed so rock-solid. Once he spoke with such conviction about the things of God, as if he had all the answers. Suddenly, he was thrust into an abyss where answers could not be found.
The reality of a loved one’s death was brutal…and it still is. Have you ever watched a seven-year old granddaughter who had been so full of life a year ago be consumed with cancer? Have you ever sat down with your son-in-law and your daughter to plan a funeral service that you will conduct? I hope not—and pray you never do! The pain is excruciating. I know that many of you who read this have been in similar times—a spouse, a sibling, a son—someone so dear and near and now all that remains are tombstones and memories.
I recall as a young pastor, visiting the hospital, seeking to minister by encouragement, Scripture, and prayer—and maybe somewhat effectively. Nothing helped me be more helpful than when I was hospitalized for a week with a major operation, requiring a month to recuperate. My sympathy factor increased exponentially and I believe my ministry was enhanced. It was no longer theory, but experience that gave me a platform of compassion.
I believe that is what Paul was saying in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (ESV)I have no idea how many hundreds of funerals I have officiated, and can truly say I have sought to weep with those that wept and bring them comfort. People have told me that they have been helped by my ministry. Yet, I know now what I have never known before. In the space of a week I have spoken at my father and granddaughter’s funerals, and felt a heartache from which I will never recover until the great Resurrection Day. That hope seems more precious than ever to me! I can testify that God’s grace is enough—that His comfort is real—and He will do the same for you, no matter what trial may come. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 ESV)