Church Is Home for the Grieving
The kind people at my home church would have been able to tell you that I cried through nearly every service—that is, every service I had the physical strength to last through—for weeks after our daughter went to glory.
A Home through Song
At the mention of heaven, the sound of “weary” or “grief” amplified by the church’s speakers, or the proclamation of Christ’s triumph over death: tears.
I sobbed listening to this stanza:
When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we'll sing
I was stilled, with wetted cheeks, by these words:
Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On thee when sorrows rise;
On thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies.
To thee I tell each rising grief,
For thou alone canst heal;
Thy word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel.
Hast thou not bid me seek thy face?
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace
Be deaf when I complain?
No, still the ear of sovereign grace
Attends the mourner's prayer;
O may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there.
The list of welcomed input for my grieving heart from church could go on—for there, I was understood. Life and death were central to the proceedings. The precise themes treading within me were on full display before me. Church presented the relief I needed—the words I heard there testify to it.
A Home through Ordinances
On our first Sunday back at church after my daughter’s body failed her, once singing was done, I soon became transfixed on the pastor and an elder. They stood at a familiar table in the front of the sanctuary. What did he say? It sounded new.
“This is my body, which is for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:24)
Then I listened in again, my thoughts in grief slow to recuperate:
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
Taking the bread and cup, my spirit remembered: His body was given to death. He is with me in this grief. It is being proclaimed.
Witnessing a baptism for the first time after my loss was much the same.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:5)
My heart swelled: In Christ, death leads to life. That joy transcends grief is a promise.
Reader, if you grieve today, perhaps you feel as though the world moves ahead without you. Know that Christ speaks to you at very point of pain. Before my daughter went to glory, I had not given much attention to the prominence of death in church ordinances, the Lord’s supper and baptism. But as I witnessed service after service, I could believe that my Lord would not brush past me or scurry my wounds to patched-up, peripheral healing. Through his death, he would deal directly with the core of the wound. At church, I would find reassurance that he alone can heal like that.
A Home through Christ’s Headship
In my experience, the love of the people in my local church was exceedingly sweet and evident. I could not have dreamed into being a better local gathering of God’s family to be a part of amidst the loss of our daughter—and I have heard this experience to be widely shared by others in their churches. Yet, I also cannot necessarily promise others the same. I cannot guarantee the same absence of insensitivities or utter outpouring of acts of service and genuinely shared mourning.
But, here is what I can promise: Christ is the Head of his church (Colossians 1:8). And the theological realities from the Word coming from his pulpits and through the ordinances he instituted are a constant—they emanate from the rich pillar and buttress of truth he established (1 Timothy 3:15). Through what he gave his Church to do and hear until he returns, we can be assured that he understands how intrinsic to the human experience death has woefully become.
Grieving brothers and sisters, as you seek God’s face in grief, see how he attends the mourner’s prayer directly through sound assemblies of his own people. In these churches, be refreshed by the proclamation that though death is a shadow of darkness, a great light has dawned through the Lamb who was slain (Matthew 4:16).
A Home through One Unique Death, Proclaimed
One day, death will only be a memory. Yet, death will always be a memory. One day, in glory’s worship services, thoughts of death will not prompt sobs and sorrowful silences. Thoughts of death will not be a hovering shadow, but they will take on a different significance. They will evoke light that has scattered every shadow we have known because the death that will matter to God’s people will be his victorious one.
As the Church on this earth awaiting glory, God’s people proclaim his death: The core of our wound—sin—has been cleansed and pardoned; God’s wrath is turned away. So, we can anticipate eternal life from death. Here, when we feel depleted by death, he is with us—having been given there for us. As God’s people, we assemble beneath our Head, and proclaiming his unique death, we find a home when we grieve until he comes again.
This post was originally published at Unlocking the Bible.