Summary: When you've lost someone you love, hurt, hope, and inherit God's richest blessings even in the place of pain.
Three friends were hanging out one day, and their conversation grimly turned to the issue of death. One of the friends asked the others, “What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?”
One friend answered, “I would want people to say, ‘He was a great humanitarian who cared about his community.’”
A second replied, “I would want people to say, ‘He was a great husband and father, an example for many to follow.’”
The third friend gave it some thought and answered, “I would hope someone says, ‘Look, he's moving!’” (John Beukema, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; www.PreachingToday.com)
Even though heaven is a real, wonderful place for all of us who have trusted Christ as our Savior, I don’t think too many of us are anxious to get there any time soon. However, there is coming a day when all of us will face death. You see, “despite the enormous efforts of doctors, rescue workers and other medical professionals worldwide, the global death rate remains constant at 100 percent.” (The Onion, “World Death Rate Still Holding Steady at 100 Percent”, 1-22-97; www.PreachingToday.com)
All of us will die someday, but that fact doesn’t make it any easier when we have to face our own death or the death of someone we love very much, does it? So what do you do in the face of death? What do you do when you lose someone that is near and dear to you? What do you do when the grief of loss seems almost overwhelming? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 23, Genesis 23, where we see how a real man of faith handled the loss of his own wife.
Genesis 23:1-2 Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. (ESV)
That is, he mourned and wailed with loud cries. That’s what the original Hebrew indicates. This is no silent sorrow. It is an open expression of grief from a man who hurts very deeply.
After all, he and Sarah had celebrated more than a hundred wedding anniversaries together. They had experienced the ups and downs of life together. They moved across the desert together to a land flowing with milk and honey. There in that strange land, Abraham nearly lost his wife twice to a pagan king, and then miraculously got her back. They knew the pain of barrenness and the sheer joy of a miraculous birth. They had experienced a rich and full life together, and now the love of his life is gone! Abraham hurt deeply over his loss, and he can’t help but weep and wail with loud cries as he expresses the agony of his soul.
You see, That’s what a man of faith does when he loses someone he loves. His faith allows him to feel his pain deeply. People who don’t believe are afraid to feel. People who don’t believe are afraid to face their pain. Instread, people who don’t believe medicate their pain, they mask it, or they try to move on like nothing ever really happened.
John James and Frank Cherry, in their book on grief recovery, trace the story of a boy named Johnny. When five-year-old Johnny's dog dies, Johnny is stunned, and he bursts out crying. His dog was his constant companion; it slept at the foot of his bed. Now the dog is gone, and little Johnny's a basket case.
Johnny's dad stammers a bit and says, “Uh, don't feel bad, Johnny, we'll get you a new dog Saturday.” In that one sentence, Johnny's dad is really offering the first two steps in society's grief management program: Bury your feelings; replace your losses. Once you have the new dog you won't even think about the old dog any more.
Later when Johnny falls in love with a high school freshman girl the world never looked brighter, until she dumps him. Suddenly a curtain covers the sun. Johnny's heart is broken, and this time it's big time hurt. It's not just a dog. This is a person his heart was fixed on.
John is a wreck. But mom comes to the rescue this time and says with great sensitivity, “Don't feel bad, John, there are other fish in the sea.” Bury the pain, replace the loss. Johnny has steps one and two down pat now. He'll use them the rest of his life.
Much later, John's grandfather dies – the one he fished with every summer and felt close to. A note was slipped to him in math class. He read the note and couldn't fight off the tears. He broke down sobbing on his desk. The teacher felt uncomfortable about it and sent him off to the school office to grieve alone.