Last week, I accompanied my pastor as he conducted a funeral and cremation service. I was caught by surprise and only had a white T-shirt dotted with cartoon dogs. Unfortunately I had to wear it. Mental note: Keep a black collar shirt at all times ready.
The funeral service was rather short and we travelled to the crematorium. There was a Committal service conducted and that’s when the family started crying. Somehow, reality hit them hard at that moment when they realised their family member was really gone.
But it puzzled me.
They are all Christians. They know that the one who believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life. They know that death has lost its sting. Has it really lost its sting? Then why do they cry so much?
Well, love hurts. Crying is good, even necessary for healing. My pastor said that it takes roughly two years for grief closure. They often need counseling after the funeral to deal with their grief.
In ministry, we need to walk with those who are experiencing loss. I am struck by Ezekiel’s reaction when he came to his people in captivity.
Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib, who dwelt by the River Chebar; and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.
The phrase “I sat where they sat” is so powerful. That is often all we can do – meeting them where they are. Ezekiel sat with them seven days. I’m not sure if he said much but his presence spoke louder than words. So too as we bring the presence of God into people’s brokeness.
God understands grief. The Father experienced his son’s death. Jesus suffered a cruel painful death on the cross. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isa 53:3). We need to usher those who are hurting into the arms of One who truly identifies with them.
As I left that service, I realised it’s okay to be sad. Jesus wept for Lazarus even though he knew he would be raised from the dead. Why? He “sat where we sat”.