When we come together at a funeral to honor the loss of our father, our grandmother, our daughter, or our friend, we deeply grieve the loss of that person. But I believe there is a much bigger story taking place at the same time. There is a deeper ache in our hearts:
We are not only grieving the fall of the person whose life we honor; we are grieving the fall of all Creation.
On a human level we grieve illness, frailty, loneliness, heartache, loss of awareness, even the loss of decent human dignity. But at the same time we are grieving the horrific, tragic turn that God’s Creation has taken. Our loved one’s death is just the most recent and most painful reminder.
I want to share with you 3 messages I’m convinced God wants us to hear from him as we mourn the loss of those we love:
1. The first message is, “I know how you feel. Me too.”
“I made you in my image; I’m the one who gave you emotions like the ones I have; like the ones you feel right now. I know what sadness, grief and pain feel like. Those come directly from my own heart.”
Friends, there is a way in which we tend to think God doesn’t experience the deep emotions we feel. We might think God and the rest of the Trinity are removed from what we carry in grief. I don’t believe He is at all. Scripture tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…” (Heb. 4:15) In describing Jesus Isaiah called him, “a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.” (Is. 53:3) Even his own Spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Ro. 8:26)
Every life lost to age, every miscarriage, every victim of famine warfare or disease, every one of these lives is a life he created specifically, intentionally. He knit them together in their mother’s womb. (Psalm 139) Every one is a child he dearly loves as Heavenly Father.
He knows the pain, not only of loss of life, but of the brokenness and indignity of life that so often pierce us. I believe these pierce the very heart of a loving Father even more than they pierce us.
I believe God says to us, “I know how you feel. Me, too.”
2. A second message God has for us is, “This is not what I intended for you.”
“What I intended for you is exactly what I built your heart for, and exactly what I gave you. The Garden: beauty, fruitfulness, unimaginable union with me, endless joy. It’s no wonder you feel the way you do. This is not what your heart longs for.”
Friends, what God designed our hearts for is spiritual experience beyond the limits of a fallen earth. Transcendence. Sadly, what we chose through Adam and Eve was distrust, shame, and hiddenness. Fallenness.
The painful gap we live with is the gap between what God intended for us and what he allowed us to choose for ourselves.
What He gave us a longing for is joy of heart, soul, mind and strength. What we live with is the degradation of those very same parts of our being:
Romans 8:22 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
I believe God says to us, “This is not what I intended for you.”
3. There is a third message God has for us: “Just wait. I’m going to make it right.”
I believe God says, “Please trust me, please believe me, please rely on who you know I am—powerful, righteous, loving, forgiving, just. I have not forgotten you; I am not ignorant or uncaring of your grief. Just wait. I’m going to make it right.”
One of my favorite qualities of God is that he is Redeemer. Jesus is our personal redeemer; the only perfect man who ever lived died so I can have life. But God also redeems on a universal scale. He takes what is broken and hopeless and turns it around 180 degrees to make it powerful and life-giving.
Isaiah 65:17 quotes God saying:
Pay close attention now:
I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.
All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain
are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy. (Message)
Paul says, “that our present sufferings are not even worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us…” God redeems on a personal scale, and He will redeem on a universal scale.
There is a second quality of God I love. He’s the God of Hope.
Not hope as the world gives it—wishful thinking, crossed-finger, pinky swear hope. No, Rock-solid confidence, a sure foundation based on who He is—Creator, Redeemer, God of hope.
Ro. 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We Christians can walk through the grief of the loss of life with a promise of Hope; Hope that overflows from us, even with an impact on those around us who have no sense of hope when confronted with death.
The 3rd message I believe God has for us is, “Just wait. I will make it right.”
There is a song that communicates so well the feelings we experience in the midst of the loss of life—both the grief we feel, and the hope we claim during trials like this one. It’s called Beyond the Sky by Fernando Ortega. A few of the lines read:
One morning when time is done,
Bright Heaven will be our refuge: The City of God most high.
Beyond the sky, Beyond all telling,
Our Father Himself will be our Light.
His arms will hold us, and with His hand
He’ll wipe away the tears
That stain our eyes.
Friends, if God were to speak to us directly in the time of the loss of a loved one, this is what I believe He would say:
1. I know how you feel. Me, too.
2. This is not what I intended for you.
3. Just wait. I will make it right.
And in response we can claim Ps. 130:
Wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, and their daughter Gemma. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.