Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

22 September 2015

Hope and Comfort


Sometimes when someone dies you just know they have gone Home to glory.  Other times though you find yourself floundering somewhere between doubt and dread, fearing that they may not have put their faith in Christ - even faith as small as a mustard seed.

Uncertainty and fear add to the already heavy weight of grief.  And it all serves to remind us that death is wrong.   When Jesus wept for Lazarus it seems it wasn't just for the lost relationship, but weeping over the state of things.  It was never meant to be this way.  Death is a hard place.

I've thought about all of this a great deal over recent years and my thoughts have been tested.  What I have found, in the face of death, is that there are two things that bring me enormous comfort, no matter what the circumstances.

The first thing is this.  We are made in the image of God.  One of the things this means is that we are made to be in relationship with Him.  Every single human being ever.  I see evidence of this most clearly when someone is thrown into crisis, especially sudden crisis.  So often in those moments the person's immediate response is to cry out to God in prayer, even when they've never prayed in their life and they don't really know what they're doing.  Or else they seek out the prayers of someone who prays.  It's like we are all microchipped to God and when the need most hits we are drawn Home to our Father in heaven.  It's the strongest magnetic pull in the universe. 

And as God is "not wanting anyone to perish but for everyone to come to repentence" (2 Peter 3:9) I wonder that God maybe responds in grace and mercy to those cries Home in the greatest of all crises - as one is facing their own death. 

Sometimes we see the evidence of God's mercy in the lives of those around us over many years and we know, in death, that they are going Home.  Sometimes in God's great kindness we might see His grace and mercy in someone's last days or hours - a kindness more for our own benefit and comfort.  And I wonder if there are times when we may not be aware of God, mercifully at work even when all communication between the one dying and the outside world has all but shut down. 

The Bible is clear.  God wants all to turn to Him.  But not everyone will take up this most precious of invitations.  While on this earth we don't get to know ultimately who will take up this invitation and who won't.  But I think there is more hope than we sometimes apprehend because God has made every single one of us to be drawn to Him and has done all that we need through Jesus' work on the cross in order to take hold of His invitation of eternal life with Him - even only with mustard seed sized faith in a final moment.  There is hope, and that is comfort enough.

The other source of comfort then is this.  God's ways are perfect.  All things happen in His perfect, loving and sovereign timing and wisdom.  So when someone dies we can be confident that whatever has happened, it will have happened in God's perfect will and wisdom.  I trust God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.  (Well, I try to.)  And so I trust Him to get it right in every single instance and circumstance.  Whatever has happened, when someone dies, it will have happened as God willed it to be.  More than anything I might hope for in all my human weakness, I trust God.  And that is the deepest comfort in the world.  I will still be sad.  Death is a hard place.  But I will be comforted by the God of all comfort whose ways are always right. 

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
  When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say,
  “It is well, it is well with my soul!”
(Horatio Gates Spafford) 

4 comments:

Ali said...

Beautiful. When these things distress me I remind myself that I cannot possibly be more loving than God (from whom my own capacity to love is a derivative) and so he will do the loving thing, and that whatever that is, one day I will be able to see it that way too.

Meredith said...

Thanks Ali. It does always seem to come back to the fact that God is good. Sometimes it's hard to remember that truth in the heat of the moment but we pray that this will increasingly be the case.
Hope you are well.
Mxx

Sarah said...

Brilliant post, Meredith. You've said it so well.

Sometimes I struggle with not knowing whether my Nan is with Jesus or not. I take hope from the fact that she 'softened' in her stance towards God in her final months, but people saying she is or she isn't is just not helpful. This is a good reminder that God is indeed good, just and merciful, and knows the deep things of people's hearts that we could never know.

Meredith said...

Thanks Sarah. That He knows best is truly a soft place to fall.
Hope you are well and that all is well. Have been praying for you.
Love Meredith x