I’m always reminded of Job’s friends. After Job’s astounding loss of family, livelihood, and personal health, his friends came to comfort him. They also came up with some amazing fundraising ideas to help him recover. They put on the signs of grieving (they cried, tore their clothes, and put ashes on their heads). Then they shut up and sat with him. For a whole week they sat beside him, mourning with him, but didn’t speak.
Today we’re so afraid of grief that we say ridiculous (and sometimes theologically stupid) things. We say these things for a couple reasons. Sometimes we feel better and want to comfort the one who grieves, so we use our words to TRY to make them feel better. Other times, we OURSELVES are uncomfortable with someone’s grief, so we try to lighten the atmosphere for our own sake.
But the honest truth is that words do little to ease the hurt when we suffer loss, when we grieve the death of a friend. Words and sayings do little to dull the pain. So I’ve stopped trying to say things in a cheap attempt to make it hurt less. I say we should embrace the pain and show that we care with actions. After all, actions speak louder than words. Even if it’s something as simple as choosing the coffin colors here, it can show that you thought deeply about how to console them. Simply choosing the loved one’s favourite colour can add that personal touch to a funeral, and make all the difference in helping mourners to find inner peace.
I’m reminded of King David’s famous 23rd Psalm where he writes:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me…
Notice that David never talks about God miraculously making things better. God doesn’t remove David from the valley of the shadow of death. David simply takes comfort and strength knowing that, even IN THE MIDST of the chaos, God walks alongside him.
Jesus told his disciples:
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
We will go through chaos and turbulence. We will know suffering and pain and loss. God never promises to keep us from it. But we know that, through it all, God walks beside us every step of the way.
Chris Linzey is husband to Tené, father to the three most beautiful children in the world, movie addict (seriously, if it’s on a screen he'll watch it—doesn’t matter how crummy or low-budget), and a Navy Chaplain, currently assigned to Naval Air Station, Meridian. Chris has a deep desire to help people live lives of faith where the Bible is more than mere words on a page, but the way we live everyday. His undergrad and Master’s studies were in Biblical Studies and he focused on the New Testament (his mentor was a Gospel of Mark scholar). He went on to get a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Pastoral Preaching. Follow him at @chrislinzey.