Tinsley column: Comfort for those who grieve
Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
Most of us first experience grief as a child with the death of a pet who shared our childhood. Many dogs, cats and birds have been buried beneath carefully turned soil moistened with childhood tears.
Grief eventually comes more forcefully with the death of a parent, a brother, sister or friend. If we live long enough, it will come to each of us when we part with those we love most.
David, who wrote the Psalms, was famous for his grief over the death of his son Absalom. Even though Absalom led a rebellion against him seeking to unseat him from the throne of Israel, when David heard that Absalom was dead, he was inconsolable. He wept and cried, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33). On another occasion, when David grieved over the death of another child, he said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:23).
Confidence in heaven and the resurrection does not eliminate grief, but it takes away the sting. That is why the Apostle Paul writes, “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54).
My father died when I was 29. My mother when I was 64. I preached my grandfather’s funeral, as well as numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and friends. Last week, my family buried my mother’s sister in Texas. Next week our daughter and grandchildren will bury our son-in-law’s mother in Georgia. We must all face the loss of loved ones.
A few years ago, I visited a cemetery in old Boston where the tombstones date back to some of the earliest residents of the colonies. I discovered an interesting pattern. Those grave makers erected before 1730 bore skulls and crossbones. They were the picture of death and despair. The markers erected after 1740 bore the images of angels and cherubim and were often inscribed with verses about heaven. The only event that could have made such a difference in the Boston markers is the Great Awakening that swept the colonies in the 1730s and 1740s. Benjamin Franklin wrote of the Awakening that there was a “wonderful ... change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. … so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.”
Grief as a believer in Jesus Christ is deep and real, but it is not a grief without hope. Even Jesus grieved when he stood outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus. Although he knew he would call Lazarus from the grave and raise him from the dead, the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” When Jesus wept, he demonstrated to us that God not only knows our grief, he feels it. We do not grieve alone or in isolation nor do we grieve without hope.
Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. His books are available at www.tinsleycenter.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.