In light of the many personal losses that have been posted to Rapture Ready recently, I dedicate this article.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
It is common practice for most men to hide grief in this country. We rationalize that we must stay strong for the sake of the children or the rest of the family. This is contrary to many cultures which encourage open displays and make sorrow not only a shared family experience, but have the neighbors join in for weeks on end. The story of Job’s friends tearing their clothing and sitting in sackcloth and ashes for days along with him may seem extreme to us. We do have our funerals and memorial services that last a day. Friends bring in food for visiting kin and then everyone goes about their business the next day. Cards flow in for a week or two and then we are expected to return to life as usual.
But what is expected from the grief-process and what one actually goes through is different for every individual. My own journey began on April 30, 2012 when my wife of 41 years passed away from complications of open-heart surgery. She had been suffering what we thought was reflux that despite our long medical backgrounds failed to be recognized as a heart attack.
Unless you have lost someone who is your closest companion on earth, you cannot imagine the pain that goes through the body and soul. I did not go through a conscious denial or bargaining stage. My firm belief is that my wife, as a strong Christian, was present with the Lord as soon as her soul left her body. There was no use asking to have her back or losing faith in the God I trust with my own eternity. My children and I could only bow our heads, pray and cry together in the hospital waiting room.
A grown man can and should cry deep and long for a loss like that. The first days and weeks are always the worst: The sight or smell of her personal belongings; music, when words suddenly express your own unspoken thoughts, but mostly the empty side of the bed. As a year has gone by, those things will still bring mist to the eyes on occasion. I still miss her greatly and think about her every day. You might have occasional thoughts of anger as I did, that she should have taken better care of herself or that I should have been more insistent on healthy choices.
While you are able to contain emotions during waking hours but you cannot control your dreams. For some months, I was tormented by dreams that she had divorced me or had left for some reason but had not died (the subconscious refusal to admit facts). Later, the dreams mellowed as the reality of her death sunk in. I remember an early one where I talked to her for a brief time, about what I can’t recall. Then I asked if she had had anything to eat in heaven, yet. Amazingly, she said, “No, it’s taken half of eternity to set the table.”
My wife was a “Martha” so I know what she is doing now. My sister saw a vision of her as the beautiful young women she once was being swung around affectionately by Jesus. I saw her also in other dreams as being in her prime; long blondish hair, faint freckles and radiant smile. We will not know until we arrive in heaven (trusting Lord Jesus for your salvation is essential) whether the dreams and visions are our own mind’s way of comforting us, or if they are real.
How God can personally comfort us is truly supernatural and amazing.
Jesus experienced the same kind of pain when He likewise lost friends, is evident from Scripture. His ability to feel our pain and help us deal with it will see you through─if you let Him. The first time I noticed the healing taking place was when I sang along with the praise songs on the radio, though I was weeping at the time. I was in effect telling God that I was accepting His will in the loss of my wife. But what happens when we can no longer cope?
During a particular difficult dream and in the deepest of my despair, I was telling God that I could no longer stand the pain. In what can only be described as an overwhelming sense of love and a golden aura that enveloped my soul brought an instant peace. I have heard of others having this experience, which verifies that the Lord will deliver us from the worst of our pain if we just cry out to Him.
You have that choice in every difficult situation that occurs: Accept God’s holy and perfect will, or reject what His continuing plan is for your life. The book and life history of Job tells us three things which I paraphrase below:
Job 1.21: You came into this world with nothing. Everything you have was given to you by God and you will leave it all behind when you die.
Job 2.10: Accept that your life will consist of both good and bad (trial) days. God gives you both to refine your faith.
Job 13.15: Trust in God even unto death, yours or your loved ones.
1 Peter 1.6-7: “In this you greatly rejoice even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
You are likely to be quoted the verse that says “all things work for good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). It might seem completely wrong in the case of losing a love one. We like to define who we are as a couple as much as who we are individually. So how can it possibly be good for a working marriage and a godly life to be taken out of this world? Those questions will be answered in completion as we stand before Him (Yes, I know, you hear that said for everything that we don’t understand).
If you are careful in retrospect as your life moves forward, you will see that there are things that you accomplish for God’s kingdom that you probably could not have done while married. It is as Paul stated: When a person is married, he or she is trying to please their spouse and then give to the Lord as time and resources allow. When taken, you are free to serve Him as long and as deeply as you desire, if you allow your new focus to be on Him and not yourself. Paul does not condemn a person who needs to remarry, but simply says you will be happier if you concentrate on what is most important. In this time of Christ’s soon return, we indeed have much work to do to get as many into His kingdom before time runs out.
You may not have experienced a deep and painful loss like this, but it is assured, as this life is terminal, that you will. I worked during many deaths in my years in emergency medicine. The grief of those who have eternal hope in Christ Jesus is radically different than those in other religions (1Thessalonians 4:13). Jesus raised the widow’s son, Jarius’ daughter, and his friend Lazarus─who had been dead anywhere from a few hours to four days. He then was raised Himself to prove the final victory and power over life and death rests in Him alone.
We know that our salvation is solely dependent on His work and on nothing we can do. Our only part is to turn away from conscious sinning, accept His substitutionary death for us and trust in our resurrection by His power. And in this, I am a witness: That He will never leave or forsake us even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.