Death, no matter when it occurs, is a difficult thing for us. It is especially hard when it is unexpected and the one who has left us seems to have been taken too soon.
When we are caught off guard by death the questions come fast and furious. What happened? When did it happen? How did it happen? We want answers. We need to make sense of it and somehow if we ask the right questions and get all of the answers we can make sense out of the unthinkable, the unbelievable, the unbearable.
As our community deals with a recent loss it reminded me of another time and another place where grief struck close to home. I remember praying for that family and asking God to be merciful. And as soon as the words left my mouth I stopped. In my mind being merciful meant that this father and mother would still have their son. That a boy would still have his big brother. This time it would seem merciful to me, to us, for a husband to still have his wife, little girls to grow up with their mother and parents who would not ever need to know the sorrow of having to bury their child even if she was grown. It is a very harsh reminder that His ways are not our ways.
It is a stark remembrance of the sin that taints our world and the one who seeks to destroy. It is a reminder that death is always ugly and painful but it is also a defeated foe. Somehow, out of this hideous sorrow God is working out His good and perfect will. On this side, for those of us left to grieve and search for understanding, we feel the heaviness of a precious life gone. But for the one who has gone…she stands before her King, holy and without regret that her life seemingly ended too soon. She knows, in a way that we cannot yet know, that from her first breath to her last, her first step to her final one, each was ordered by God.
And God’s mercy? It is here, fully present, as family and friends come together to weep with those who weep. His mercy shades our grief with the hope and truth that this separation is only temporary and that one day we will all stand before our King, knowing fully, finally, just as we are fully known. Just as she now knows.
As a community mourns in the coming days and weeks tears will fall and because it is a way of seeking comfort, more than a little laughter will probably be heard as stories are told and memories are revisited. We will realize our questions don’t matter and we’ll realize the answers we have sought aren’t really the answer. Mercy will be found as we come together, truly one body, in His name sharing in a burden far too heavy for one or two or even three to hold. We will do the hard work of trusting and believing for each other, of reminding and holding up those who feel the weight of grief heaviest. And we will do it knowing that the peace of God that goes beyond our own understanding will wrap around them and enable them to grieve with hope in the resurrection, knowing that Christ is king and death has no ultimate hold on any of us.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16