By Norman Ridenhour
Baptist layman and retired journalist
There are subjects no one wants to deal with but are a reality. One such reality is death. Most Christians respond to death with either acceptance or anger. I’ve seen some who become witnesses to others while some want answers that are not forthcoming.
Truth is, it’s a subject I didn’t want to deal with or write about until a former co-worker by the name of Jeff Hoffman said “Death can create wounded healers who are a comfort to others.” Had to think about that statement before I understood what he meant.
My memory was jolted by a story of a friend who, at the birth of his first child, was told “She won’t live more than two weeks.” His first reaction was, why me? When you seek these answers, it becomes personal, and his grief made him a bitter man.
With time and the understanding that these things happen, he accepted his loss and later became a “wounded healer.” Other couples facing the same outcome came to him and asked “How did you deal with it?” His answer was always the same: “Not very well!”
With time he came to the opinion that God knew he wasn’t strong enough to deal with her affliction over the years of special care she would need to receive and God brought her “home” and gave her a new body.
The spinal bifida that paralyzed her body from the neck down was gone and the love we can only imagine surrounded her.
Lynn Pryor, a team leader for Bible Studies for Life, did a great job on the subject in the Dec. 6 Sunday School lesson for seniors. He wrote “Emotions. We’ve all got them.”
If you are like me, you know one or two people whose lives are an emotional roller coaster, running through a gamut of emotions in a matter of minutes!
“Some of us freely express our emotions — both positive and negative — and some of us try to hide them. Nothing is wrong with having negative emotions. God created humans to be emotional but the challenge comes with how we express those emotions.
Grief, fear, anger, worry, and depression hit us all — and when they do, how do we respond? How should we respond?” he wrote.
Pryor added “No one should discount or diminish the depth of grief any person feels. Grief is a powerful emotion. At one time or another we all experience grief. Grief is also not a sin; after all, even Jesus grieved” (Matthew 26:38-39).
“When we feel overwhelmed in our grief, we need to trust God. Christ indwells His children, and we do not grieve alone,” Pryor wrote.
Perhaps we look in the wrong places when we grieve. We listen to friends, co-workers and family when we should look to the Scriptures.
Obey God and deny self
Ron Brown is the writer for The Herschel Hobbs Commentary and retired curriculum manager from LifeWay Christian Resources. His lesson on the subject of emotions and death are so relevant today.
He wrote “When we experience loss or death of a loved one, we grieve. Grief is a natural expected response; it reflects the love we have for what was lost. Grief can be devastating when we are unable to move beyond it, but grief can be healthy when it is balanced with hope and trust in God. As we learn to see life, loss, and even death from God’s perspective, we are able to move forward in His mercy and love.”
He also stated emotions are not bad, but they can be detrimental if we let them “take over” and rule our lives. I appreciated his statements on what Psalms 116:1-4 teaches us. “The Lord is ever attentive to the cries of His people. The Lord is sufficient even when we face the sorrow, grief, and the anguish of death — ours or someone else’s.”
Another statement Ron shared was in regard to Psalms 116:15 which says “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” The Lord does not take the death of His faithful ones lightly. God breaks the bonds of death and frees us to live life eternally in His presence.”
Death is not the end
No one escapes death! The only question is whether we are prepared. I am amazed by the actions of believers and non-believers when death comes. I’ve attended far too many funerals and have seen those who comfort and those who hurt those who grieve.
William Barclay’s excellent commentary on the death of Lazarus covers the many aspects of death. When Jesus saw Martha and Mary and all the sympathizing crowd weeping he became angry.
One must remember this was no shedding of tears. It would be almost hysterical wailing and shrieking from paid mourners.
It was the Jewish view that the more unrestrained the weeping the more honor it paid to the dead. For Jesus this was sheer hypocrisy, that this artificial grief raised his wrath. So deeply did Jesus enter into men’s sorrows that His heart was wrung with anguish. Jesus shared the pain of the human heart. And He wept. That the Son of God could weep would be almost beyond belief.
There is a time for weeping and a time for celebration.
I’ve heard pastors and attendees make the statement “It was God’s will.” It irritates me when they do this because I doubt God sent them to inform the family, “Tell them I did it!”
I was so irritated at the death of my child when a pastor said that to me. I replied “I don’t know what God you serve, but mine doesn’t cause death, pain and misery. My God deals in mercy, redemption and love.”
So, what should you say? Simple! “I’m sorry for your loss and if you need me, I’ll be there for you and your family.” When suffering from grief you want to know others really care.
So, whose left? One has left, but others remain. Do you know their destination when that time comes? Have you witnessed to loved ones to make sure all gather again in a place where love abounds forever?
Many times the grief is greater when that destination is unknown. Don’t wait until it’s too late to witness, to set the example, to be the leader that has assured the destination of a loved one.
There is a responsibility of all Christians to prepare loved ones for that final journey. Don’t be like the intellectuals who say death is the end of our journey. I prefer the statement “ I don’t care how much you know, I want to know how much you care.”
Death is not the final experience — it’s the beginning of the greatest experience. B&R — Ridenhour is a member of Third Baptist Church, Murfreesboro.