LPNI Devotion – October 2016


Loss, Grief then Joy


Recently my wife and I lost a dear friend.  She died unexpectedly and also very suddenly while in a recreational program she had been in for quite some time.   She was a seemingly healthy 65-year-old woman.  Over the past couple of years she had had both knees replaced, but she was still working productively in her community and church.  Her husband, two grown sons, three grandchildren and other family members are just devastated by her death, as are her many friends and coworkers.   However, as the consummate planner and Christian that she was, she was prepared to die.  She had even written her own obituary and the outline of her memorial service, including her favorite Bible verses and hymns celebrating her Christianity and the joy of life eternal with her Lord and Savior.   

Those of us left behind in situations such as these are first shocked, in disbelief, dismayed and then in grief.  What is grief?  Grief is a “sorrow of the soul” as defined in The Woman’s Study Bible or broken heartedness.  We know that Jesus experienced the death of his friend Lazarus and the consequential grief as reported in John 11:1-44.  Further, Jesus cried as recorded in the shortest verse of the Bible: Jesus wept (John 11:25).   Jesus’ disciples grieved, sleeping from sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane before the impending crucifixion of Jesus their teacher and friend (Luke 22:45).

Unexpressed and unresolved grief can be the cause of behavioral health illnesses.   However, there are professionals and trained counselors who are prepared to help individuals and families cope with grief and loss.  Too often people try to get through these events themselves.    Again, the Bible gives us some direction for relief of our grief.  Giving over grief to God and being open to happiness and wellbeing again, can be an expression of God’s work in our lives.  In Luke 4:18 Jesus read from the book of Isaiah saying: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.  Healing of the brokenhearted, those experiencing grief, is God’s plan for us.

At the death of a loved one, God provides comfort to us in the words of St. Luke and St. Paul.   At the time of physical death of the believer, the soul goes immediately to heaven.  Jesus said to the penitent thief on the cross: Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).  St. Paul wrote to the new believers in Thessalonica, many of whom were formerly pagans, unbelieving Greeks, and some Jews.  He wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 18: But I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him … Wherefore comfort one another with these words.   So, at the loss of a loved one, there is grief, but God also provides joy at salvation through belief in Jesus Christ our Lord, and life eternal with him in heaven.

W. Franklin Spikes, Ed.D

St. Luke Lutheran Church

Manhattan, KS, USA