Despair

Probably one of the more insensitive things you can say to the bereaved at a funeral is, “I understand what you’re going through, and you’ll get through it.”

You don’t really understand.

Maybe you experienced the death of child, or a spouse, or a parent, but each person’s grief is different..

I had the unpleasant duty of picking up a baby who died shortly after birth from the hospital the other day.  The security guard and I were talking about what it must feel like to lose a child and we were debating if we would rather lose a child at birth or when the child was older.  We decided that we didn’t want either.

He said, “I never really could understand what it must feel like to lose a child until I had one of my own.  The thought of losing him would kill me.”

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In Death, No One Understands …

A cliché I hear from young people goes something like this, “You don’t know what I have to deal with … you don’t know what I’m going through … you just don’t understand!”

This statement is particularly true in death.

Relationships are special, individual and irreplaceable.  What you have with a loved one is only between you and them and it can never be fully understood by someone else.

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No One Can Understand … Except maybe God.

In some sense, God shares a special relationship with everyone in the world.  You could say that each of us, whether we want him or not, are his children.

Nicolas Wolterstoff stated, while journaling about the loss of his son, that the tears of God are the meaning of history.

In other words, the heart wrenching pain that God feels when He loses a son or a daughter is His very motivation to move and change history.  You can almost picture God as a wondering and dejected parent looking for his children to bring them back home.  It’s a frightening picture.

In some sense, God understands.

A couple years back, a parent who lost his child wrote a poem that he handed out during his child’s funeral.  The poem was almost a diatribe against God.  He wrote something to the effect of, “God if you knew what it was like to lose a child, maybe you would have cared enough to have spared mine.”

The more we think about God’s experience as recorded in the Bible, there’s little pain He hasn’t experienced.

He’s lost a son.

He’s been rejected.

He’s lost what He called His wife (Israel was his wife in the Old Testament).

Joseph, the husband of Mary, most likely died when Jesus was young.  Jesus probably had to financially provide for His mother.

In the end, Jesus was murdered after an atrociously unjust court hearing.

God has been as subject to pain as we have been.  Even with His great power, He’s still unable to escape the hurt that is involved with intimacy.

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He Understands and Has the Strength to Help Us

He’s experienced all the effects of sin, all the injustice and pain, just like us; yet, he’s never sinned, very much unlike us.  That’s why we can say He understands our pain and yet He, unlike so many others, has the fortitude of character to lead us out of it.

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