A new perspective in grief

Typically, the beginning of a new year has always prompted in me a fresh resolve to begin or recommit to a resolution that fell by the wayside long ago; usually a casualty of the inevitable hurly burly of life and the big beautiful mess that it so often is. The turning over of a brand new calendar page will evoke in me an optimism for the year that lies ahead. I am an optimist at heart and therefore am hopeful that a new year will be a little better. Summer has naturally been a time to take stock and plan for the year ahead.  However, this year I’ve approached things very differently. The events of the past 18 months have left on me a big heart wound. Last year was filled with so much sadness and grief, one does not simply turn the page and move on as if all that was in the past has no lasting impact on the present. While the end of a year naturally brings to a conclusion some things, feelings and emotions are a little more elusive to box up. Rather than resolving to do and be someth

God of Hope

 Today I experienced something that was both deeply saddening, profoundly moving and yet faith reaffirming. I attended the funeral of a little baby boy. While I didn’t know the family well, I felt it right to attend because my son Toby is friends at school with 2 of their sons. I haven’t attended many funerals in my life (2 in fact) and for both of these it was for elderly Grandparents who’d lived a very full life. For this little one, he had lived but 43 days, passing away the day before Father’s Day. 

I can only imagine how great the pain is of those who lose a child. However, in the midst of this pain there was joy and hope; for this family had a hope in Jesus’ saving grace and his promise of eternal life with him in heaven. As the service began, a solo guitarist sang the wonderful Matt Redman song “10,000 Reasons”; a beautiful anthem of praise to our Heavenly Father. As I looked across and saw the Mother quietly mouth the words “Bless the Lord oh my soul” I couldn’t help but be floored by her courage and faith in the face of suffering, and the gentle testament to the sure hope we have Christ.  After a faith-filled opening address by the minister, the solo guitarist began to sing Chris Tomlin’s song “Whom Shall I fear”. The chorus sings “I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind. The God of Angel Armies is always by my side.” It was in these words that I was moved by the sincere declaration of faith that this family has in God. It was a privilege to bear witness. 
In the ministers short sermon, he spoke of how we here on earth want to cling to life, grieving for those who die. Yet, for those who believe in Jesus, life eternal in the presence of God is far more amazing than what earth can hold for us. In God’s good plan, he ordained for this little boy to bypass this earth and all its pain, swiftly coming into the loving arms of Jesus. 
I was so thankful to be reminded of this sure hope. While in theory, I know all this to be true, I have always been afraid of death. Admittedly, the unknown frightens me but also the thought of causing grief to loved ones seems so unbearable. However, my observance of how God’s grace and comfort is very real to those in the midst of grief, it has somehow strengthened my own faith a little more, reminding me of what God can and does do.   
As part of the service, the Father of the little boy, made mention to the fact that his son wanted to be with his Heavenly Father on Father’s Day, and who could compete with that. It reminded me of who our children really belong to. Children are on loan to us, here on earth. It is so easy to forget; to take them for granted and to take life for granted. Life can be fleeting, but it also can be very long. How important it is to treasure them, but hold them lightly. 
The service finished with 43 balloons and 3 doves being released into the air, it was a tangible sign of releasing their child to God. Afterwards, it felt quite surreal coming away from a funeral. Moving on seems disrespectful and somehow counter-intuitive; life seems to slow right down and it seems wrong to speed it up again. For myself, I feel very blessed to have shared in their suffering, to have witnessed their faith and to have had cause to reflect and encounter who God is, what he promises and the hope that is mine. 
Yes indeed! “The one who reigns forever, he is a friend go mine. The God of Angel Armies is always by my side.”


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