Each of us knows the pain that death brings because every family has experienced it. Every day the newspaper runs a full obituary column. And yet, when death visits our family or our friends’ families, we are often shocked, not knowing how to respond, or what to think. Too often people respond in the wrong way and blame God or lose their faith, thinking that no loving God would let this happen. How should we respond?
It is easy to see the fallacy of blaming God when we are not suffering through this pain, but the question is still before us. As we said, death comes to every family. In all of Scripture only two men ever avoided it, Enoch and Elijah. Everyone else has died or will die until Jesus returns (Hebrews 9:27).
We should begin by asking a question that may not come to the minds of all, but definitely comes to the mind of some. Whose fault is it? On one level, it is no one’s fault! Accidents happen. Sometimes a person dies because of an accident or because of an illness when there is no way anyone can point to another and say, “This was your fault!” This is usually when people want to blame God. We will discuss that more a little further on. On another level, there is direct fault. Sometimes people lose their lives as a direct result of their own or someone else’s sin. Perhaps someone violently takes someone else’s life. Or, perhaps through someone’s carelessness they or someone else dies. There are still those who want to blame God in these cases.
So, how do we respond? One man lost his son and after brooding over it for three months, took his own life. Another man lost his son and cursed God for it. A woman lost her baby and became a recluse. A couple lost their elder son and stopped attending church and became alcoholics, completely ignoring their other children. Others react to such losses by leaning more than ever on the Lord.
What are we supposed to do? First of all, remember the words of Jesus, “Come to Me…I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I know I run the risk of over-emphasizing that passage in this series to the point that it becomes trite. I hope you do not view it that way because it is too important a passage to forget. Do not leave God! Do not fool yourself into thinking that it will be better if you stay away from church because you cannot stand the attention of the church. In my ministry I have seen so many take that approach and some never make it back.
Let me close with some practical suggestions. Regularly attend worship; assemble with the saints of God! They are your family if you are a Christian and they can help because they have suffered this same pain, too.
Read your Bible daily! We should be doing this anyway. “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). Set a time and regularly listen to what God has to say about your pain; you will be surprised what it will do for you. I know this is also a suggestion you will be tempted to think trite, but it is not. It really works!
Another suggestion is…pray! Do not be afraid to talk to God. Do not be afraid to tell Him just how you feel. Yes, He already knows, but this really works as part of the healing process for you. Verbally give yourself to Him and He will help you through this difficult time.
And help others! Everyone knows the dangers of self-pity, although we would never use such a callous term in the presence of someone in such pain. However, there is no better way to soothe your pain than to soothe the pain of others. There are many times in the life of Jesus when He grieved. It is interesting to me that when Jesus went away to grieve and was followed by the multitudes, He responded by ministering to them. Ross Dye, in his book “Words of Comfort” said: “The loss of a loved one will either destroy your faith — perhaps we should say that it will expose it as a farce — or it will deepen your faith and enrich your spiritual life. It is most certainly a test of your faith. God does not bring these things upon you, but sometimes He allows them to happen. Faith must be tested in some ways if you are to ever know the reality of it. You are now on trial to see whether your faith is real. You have trusted God, you think, in seasons of joy, but what will you do in the storms? The Christian must not be a summer soldier.”
Perhaps at a time like this we should remember passages such as 1 Corinthians 10:13 more than at other times. God has promised to make sure we do not have to suffer more temptation than we are able to bear and that includes the temptation to leave God when we suffer. It just seems like it is too much. I cannot help thinking that so much of what we have said in this series will be seen by some as trite, but it is true that the pain will ease with time, if we will lean on the Lord. There are many painful things in this world that I frankly do not think we could endure without the loving and everlasting arms of the Lord. Thank God we have them. Let us use them!!
There are other areas or circumstances that cause families pain, but this short series hopefully has helped us understand that there is help to endure the pain and I hope that you find that encouraging. That is why I wanted to include it in Barnabas Notes. I hope you never forget that God loves you and so do I.