I heard the news on a Friday that a pastor friend, Chuck Ryor, died in a tragic motorcycle accident.
Saturday was the six-month anniversary of losing a church member and friend, Tony Bianculli.
Sunday was the eigh-year anniversary of the death of my brother-in-law, Jonathan Bedell.
That weekend turned reflective for me, and it's taken some time to be ready to write this.
Here are three lessons I'm learning while processing missing my friends and family.
Lesson #1 - Life is Short
The Bible is clear on this point — Life is like a puff of smoke (Psalm 39:5; 144:4; Ecclesiastes 1:2; James 4:14).
We know this yet convince ourselves otherwise. For fear of death, we avoid, ignore, and trick ourselves into thinking that we and those we love won't face death.
Yet death comes to all and crashes all illusions. From dust, you came, and to dust, you shall return (Genesis 3:19).
Life's brevity teaches us to number our days and live to the fullest (Psalm 90:12).
Friends, you only have one life to live, love, and lead others toward Jesus. Let's make the most of it.
Lesson #2 - Grief is Hard on relationships
C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed,
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.” - C.S. Lewis
Grief is confusing.
At times, you simultaneously want to be alone and with people. Once you get your desired solitude or community, you don't know what to do with it.
The finality of relational separation from your loved one reverberates into all your others relationships — including your relationship with God.
Grief opens a door for us to walk further into the truth that "nothing can separate us from Christ" or to walk away from God (Romans 8:39).
Lesson #3 - Grief is Painful, but God is good
Grief comes in waves. At first, I resented this.
It seemed cruel for grief to sabotage me only to plunge me under again in the grocery store or the middle of a joy-filled conversation.
Yet over time, I've come to see the waves as a mercy.
Death is wrong (Ecclesiastes 3:11)! We feel death's wrongness in our bodies every time we think about losing someone to it.
Death is also too much for our souls to process all at once. God is good to lead us to mourn death incrementally.
Death and Jesus
One of the most natural questions after someone we love dies is Why.
Why didn't God stop this?
That question is impossible to answer. But here's what we do know from Scripture when death touches our lives:
God takes no pleasure in anyone's death (Ezekiel 18:32).
Jesus mourned Lazarus' death (John 11:35).
God puts an end to death once and for all at the cross (1 Corinthians 15:54-58).
God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).
God will make it all right (Revelation 21:3-5).
When grief comes to stay a while in your life, I pray that you (and I) might cling to our God who understands, conquered death at the cross, and will make it all right in the coming Kingdom.
Until then, may we honor those we've loved and lost by remembering, mourning, and learning from their life.
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