The pain of grief is the hardest thing to bear in this life. As a Christian, it tests everything about faith and belief in a loving God. Grief is the ultimate breaking point of complete surrender to all the promises God gives us in the scriptures. It’s like a free fall jump with a net below, where all we can do is trust that the net will hold us in our time of sorrow and unbelievable pain.
This past week I had the privilege of being there for someone in their time of grief. My cousin Susan lost her husband to a sudden heart attack last week. He was only 46 years old. He was a father, a grandfather, a son, a veteran, a police officer but most importantly he was the man who shared my cousin’s life in love and family.
The night before the memorial service I was able to sit with my cousin and just talk about her grief, their life, and the future she would live without the man that she loved. As I sat with her, in the hardest time of her life, I felt the unwavering hope and love of God for Susan and her family. But I also felt complete gratefulness that God was giving me the opportunity to be there for Susan as her cousin and a friend.
God’s timing is impeccable. Several years ago my cousin and I didn’t even really know each other. We didn’t grow up together, never had family reunions to keep in touch, and our lives never connected in any way. It’s unfortunate that family relations are taken for granted out of the sheer absence of not seeing each other or not making the effort to get to know one another.
Susan and I have led very different lives. If you were to put us in a novel her character would probably be the rebel and mine would be the moralist goody two-shoes. We are very different but we also have so much in common. First, we are family. We share a heritage that is unique in itself. Our great, great-grandfather lived in Tennessee but fought for the Union in the Civil War. We come from a long line of preachers and our own grandmother was best known for her ability to beat down anyone with the power of her Bible in sharing the gospel. (Seriously, I wished we had a videotape of it.)
Family heritage binds us together by blood but forming a relationship with her has made us friends. This was why I was so grateful to be able to be there for my cousin in her time of grief. As I sat with her just four days after the death of her husband, I realized how much love God has for the two of us. Here we were, two cousins reunited, from the same family line who have walked very different paths and God was revealing to the both of us his overwhelming love. He was wrapping Susan in all those promises that are given in scripture and he was wrapping me in the knowledge of his grace.
Sitting on that front porch with Susan at the hardest time of her life revealed to me a God who loves us beyond measure. Psalms 37:25 says, “I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging for bread.”
There is no such thing as righteousness in our life stories based on our own merits. The faith we hold in God cannot be tied to our life choices or our family heritage because we have already failed. We are sinners– all of us. I used to think righteousness was about moral laws and pleasing God with the choices I make. That’s not righteousness, that’s obedience. The promise God gives us in not seeing the “righteous forsaken” is for those who follow Christ. It’s the free fall jump with that leap of faith through every trial and test of this life and knowing that He will catch us no matter what the outcome. That’s who God calls righteous.
Susan and I have been caught. He’s holding tightly to the both of us and He will not let go. God will heal her heart through this pain. His promises are true. I am grateful for the love and comfort that family can give but I am overwhelmingly in awe of the power of God in our lives despite our life stories.
God took Susan’s husband home early for reasons we may never know here on earth. But if there is one thing I have learned from his death is that loving each other as the body of Christ is what we are called to do. Life can change in an instant. So love your neighbor a little more, reach out to family despite your differences, walk out in obedience to God and reflect the righteousness that only He can bring. He will not let you go!