It is with joy that I sit down to write my first real post. It is with a somber heart that I choose it’s topic.
I thought I knew what I would do for my first post – something about pursuing holiness, maybe the importance of original language study. You know, meaty practical theology that would “set the tone” for the site.
Then I saw this:
Wow. Talk about getting real. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a grown man pour out the weight of his soul the way Mr. Griffith does. As I watched this video, it really gave me pause to think about life, death and how our culture often responds. I’d like to frame three separate responses to this video, targeted towards three separate audiences. This is obviously a very weighty topic to which tomes have been written, but I’d like to do my best to unpack each of these in a very succinct fashion.
For those of us who are active members of any church body, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of supporting grieving church members? For me, it’s tater-tot casserole. I grew up in a church culture – as I’m sure many of us did – where supporting church members in mourning meant sending flowers and bringing them food during the first couple weeks of grieving. That’s our obligation, right? The family has so many things going on that if we just bring them some food we will have fulfilled our role.
For anyone who has gone through the painful process of losing our loved ones, we know what this looks like from the inside. We can expect not to cook for a couple weeks while we deal with the funeral and settling the property, but quickly the support trickles off. The phone calls stop, the people showing up with food in hand comes to an abrupt halt, and we are expected to go back to life as usual. The sad reality is that families dealing with loss are so busy during these weeks of funeral planning that the real mourning doesn’t begin until after the two-week window ends. When we are expected to be back to normal, the grieving has really only begun.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV). These are radical words for our modern church. When members of our local church community are mourning, what are we doing? Are we content with checking off the box after tater-tot casserole? Or are we continuing to meet with and engage our church family whose world has just been completely damaged? Sometimes all we can do is just sit down with them and “weep with those who weep”. Do not underestimate the encouragement that comes from just having another persons presence nearby when someone is in pain. We don’t need to have clever things to say, or lofty ideas about the reality of death. We have the hope of the gospel, and we can speak that hope into the lives of our church family.
What would this look like if we actually lived this out? How would our non-Christian friends and neighbors react if they saw us living this out? “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV). Lets be a church that boldly turns away from the apathetic approach our culture has to grief and mourning. We probably already have these people in our churches right now. Do you know who they are? Lets be a real family, and really be there for one another in our pain.
The Grieving Christian
Maybe you can relate to the pain this man is going through. Whether it’s been 10 days or 10 years, the pain of loss can leave a lasting impact. How are you dealing with this? Is this pain causing you to run to your church family, or is it leading you to withdrawal and closing yourself off from those closest to you? Deep hurt and pain can lead to so many mixed emotions – maybe you think that nobody really cares, that God must not care…or maybe God just doesn’t exist at all. My encouragement to you is twofold: lean into your church but more importantly lean into Christ.
There are numerous passages in the Bible about caring for one another. One of these is that we are supposed to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV). The challenge there is that if no one knows your burdens, they can’t help you bear it. Your church is there as a network of pastors, elders and members to speak the light of Christ and the gospel into your life when you can see only darkness all around you. Don’t cut yourself off from the pack. First Peter tells us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. I heard a pastor once compare this to those animal planet shows where we see the lion chasing the pack of gazelles. Which gazelle is the one to get eaten? Inevitably there is always one that when the pack goes left, he decides to go right. And then it’s game over for the gazelle. Christian, the same thing can happen to us when we cut ourselves off from the pack. We leave ourselves completely open to the attacks of this world.
Would you believe me if I told you that Jesus understands what you are going through? If not, let me show you. In John Chapter 11, Jesus visits the family and friends of Lazarus, one of his close friends who has recently passed away. When encountered with the grief and tears of those who are mourning, the Bible tells us that Jesus himself wept. Most of us know how this story ends – Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. So why then, if Jesus knows Lazarus is coming back, does Jesus weep? It is because the pain of death and the weight of sin are absolutely grievous to him. Jesus mourned as we mourn. The Great Creator of the universe mourns with us. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ can relate to us in our weaknesses, and therefore we are able to draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16, ESV).
Let that sink in. God is not so far off that he cannot hear nor understand us. He is a loving and caring Father, and we can draw near to Him for our comfort in times of pain, trial and weakness.
If you’re reading this post as a non-Christian, you may think some of this sounds ludicrous. Let me assure you that whatever belief system you hold to has it’s views on death. If you’re an atheist, death is just the natural part of life. Maybe you believe that when we die we will all become part of the “great cosmic life force”. Perhaps you haven’t really thought about it, but you’re relatively sure that there is some sort of God who just wants us to be happy and nice in this life, and he’ll get everything sorted out in the end.
Let me be clear, I don’t want to “scare anyone away from death” or use the fear of the unknown to set up some sort of emotional fallacy. But have you truly taken your worldview to its farthest extent and asked the simple question, “Why?” If you follow whatever view you hold to it’s logical conclusion at the end of life, where does it lead you? Do you have any answers that really provide any form of satisfaction?
Well-known preacher and author John Piper once simply asked “What is the meaning of all this death in the world?” Flip open your newspaper to the obituary or turn on the news, and death is everywhere. For every person dying there is an immediate network of people who are in absolute grief. Why? The God of the Bible has the answer; the consequences of sin are outrageous. You see, the Bible tells us that once sin entered the world, death entered with it (James 1:15, Romans 6:23). Once one man (Adam) died to sin, we all died with him. The consequences of sin have invaded our very genetic strands. But this is not the way it was always intended to be; sin brings death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ.
Many non-Christians believe that Christianity promises a pain-free, perfect life. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Christ himself tells us there will be pain in this life, but the good news is that He has overcome it (John 16:33). The Apostle Paul, after having suffered incredible persecution tells us that the pain in this life is but a “light and momentary affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17). Christ doesn’t promise you no pain, nor a life absent grief. But He does promise you answers to the pain of death in this life, and more importantly hope in eternal life with the one true loving God. My hope is that if you haven’t truly considered this, that you would really take some time reflect on your current views.
If you have any questions or comments on today’s post, or want some more resources on these subjects, either sound off below or use the “contact me” page to send me a message. I’d love to hear from you!