A web site for funeral directors asked them, “What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened at your funeral home?” Many responses but share one called Amazing Grace from Dylan S: “I had a woman preach the funeral of her own son. After calling him a litany of derogatory names, she proceeded to call her boyfriend to the front podium, then asked me to ‘play that song’, and as I played Amazing Grace, she and this man slow danced in front of her son’s casket.” We see a more traditional grief stricken response of the widow from Nain at her son’s funeral.
Every family has their struggles. I have heard this especially when, in a family where we would least expect it, that family has struggles. People shake their heads and murmur, “It’s true of every family. No one is immune; we all have our problems.”
In a family, suffering can have a positive impact, and when a family carries its burden, and faces the depth of suffering, this can have good results.
Many times use the word grief. Grief is a natural response to losses of many kinds.
From our Scripture we notice that the potential for grief increases as a family grows larger. When we marry and have children and those children grow up and give us grandchildren- the circle of people who mean a great deal to us can just grow and grow. And each of these people has the potential of hurting us directly or indirectly.
The widow of Nain had married. Her husband had died, and that had given her sorrow. Now her son had died too. One of the worst sorrows I am told is when a child dies and the parents grieve over that child. Even though this story describes a small family, this illustrates that when people get involved in a family, they open themselves up to suffering and grief.
Also from this account in Luke 7, we find that Jesus knew about the suffering that goes on in families. “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her” Luke 7:13, NIV. Jesus realizes that families suffer a great deal.
In that society women depended upon the men to provide for them. Her weeping could be heard above the crowd who walked with her. And then Jesus came.
“Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Luke 7:14, 15. How I wish I could say to every parent who has grieved over a child who has died that Jesus Christ will raise that child as he did at Nain but I cannot.
Every time Jesus came near someone who’d died… they refused to stay dead. However, need to realize that Jesus didn’t visit every funeral. And Jesus didn’t raise every dead person from the grave. Only 3 times Jesus raised the dead.
1. Here at the city of Nain.
2. Later, Jesus encountered Jairus the ruler of the synagogue. This man’s 12 yr. old daughter had just died. But Jesus went to their house, entered the room where her body was being prepared for burial. He took her by the hand, said “Little girl, arise” and she came back from the dead.
3. Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus and called out “Lazarus, come forth” and a man who’d been dead for 4 days, came out of the grave. However, Jesus did NOT raise EVERY dead person from the grave. Why? Because at that time this is not his mission.
Jesus experienced the sufferings we sometimes feel in the family. He grew up here on earth as part of a family. (Talk more about this tonight) He saw suffering in other families: “When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.” John 11:33-35, NIV.
Today is Palm Sunday. Davon, what in the world does this have to do with Palm Sunday? Day of Celebration. Yes, but just a few days later Jesus would be arrested and brought to his trials. He would be condemned and die on the old rugged cross. I’m told there’s a broken heart in every pew. May not feel like celebrating because many are in a Good Friday. Also, we cannot appreciate Easter Sunday unless we have gone through Good Friday.
Jesus knows much about family suffering. His mother Mary was right there at the cross while he was dying. “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” John 19:26, 27, NIV. Imagine the suffering that Mary endured while there at the cross and to see his mother!
Thesis: Let’s give some helps as we suffer together in a family
1. Understand the deep connections in our families.
Caught up in our own grief, it may be difficult for us to see the impact this loss has had on our family as a whole. What affects one affects us all.
2. Adjust our expectations.
Our feelings and behaviors in grief and suffering will be different for everyone. Mood swings and different personalities have always made family life a challenge. Grief brings it’s own mix of emotions that individuals deal with in their own ways. One may dive into work or want to be busy constantly while another can barely manage to get out of bed; tears may flow constantly or not at all. One may want to talk about the loss all the time while another becomes upset and easily irritated if someone even mentions the loss. Differences between men and women.
Don’t expect others to be perfectly sensitive to our mood and our way of coping, for each individual is caught up in their own grief. Try to be sympathetic to what is going on inside others- even though it’s difficult when our own feelings are so overwhelming.
3. Sharpen our communication skills
Invite conversation by describing our feelings, especially the ones that seem the most difficult for us. Our candor and vulnerability may draw out responses from others to loss.
Active listening is another way to help emotions find words. Active listening means hearing the emotions behind the words and checking the accuracy of our perceptions with feedback. ("What I hear you saying is… Is that right?")
Above all, accept whatever feelings our loved ones express as acceptable. Some feelings that seem inappropriate- anger or guilt, for example-are common. Saying someone "shouldn’t feel that way" gives little comfort, and short-circuits communication.
4. Celebrate holidays and special times creatively
Rethink holiday customs. The festivities will be shadowed up by our loss no matter what we do. Keep parts of family traditions that are necessary, but consider changes.
Create celebrations that allow people to grieve openly. Throw a family pity party where all are allowed to feel sorry for themselves out loud. Then brainstorm ways we can support one another. And give lot of affection and affirmation.
Plan family outings to places that are important in our family history. Revisit the places that hold happy memories. Share happy memories of things that happened in those places, and hold tight to them. All of this will help to tone down today’s sad thoughts.
5. Surround ourselves with a support system
Many times the best way to cope with family suffering is to have people outside of our immediate family to help us. This is where the church can be a tremendous support system.
The body of Christ is designed to ease burdens (“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2, NIV.) and fellow Christians have the ability to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Many in grief tend to shun others, compounding their misery. To seek help is much better. Our church family should be a source of comfort and support. The church is a help and not a hindrance in our grief. Many can receive comfort and healing through a church family
We see that the widow at Nain had a large crowd with her. The widow had no family left but she had a large support system. Surround ourselves with those people.
6. Most importantly, during a hard time, cling to the Lord. A part of overcoming grief is expressing it to God. The Psalms contain numerous examples of pouring out one’s heart to God. When we commune with God, we are able to open our minds to the truth that God loves us, that He is faithful, that He is in control, and that He will work it out for our good.
Conclusion and invitation:
We grieve over many losses in life. The most difficult is death of a loved one. This widow’s grief was ended when Jesus came and the young man came back to life. However, this young man would die again. When a loved one dies we hold onto things that demonstrate their faith in Jesus Christ. “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” Romans 6:3-5, NIV. One sign of a person’s faith is their baptism into Christ. Difficult when there are few or no signs of a person’s faith in Christ. Best thing we can do for our families is to become a Christian. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”” John 6:40, NIV.