I’ve already attended too many funerals this year! Only a few weeks in and I have been reminded several times of the brevity of life. As a pastor, it comes with the territory. It never gets easy! Often, I am at a loss for words. When I have words, they seem insignificant. My presence, my prayers, and a warm hug seem to be the only things I have to offer.
Nineteen years ago, I attended the most difficult funeral of my life… the funeral for my daughter. Victoria Nichole was born on January 29, 1999, with Triploidy, a genetic disorder. At just over 1 lb., her birth and fight was nothing short of miraculous. She died less than twenty-four hours after entering this world. To say those days were difficult for Jennifer (my wife), and I would be an understatement. Our emotions were overwhelming. Our grief was deep. Our pain was indescribable. Our belief was shaken to its core!
In the midst of grief, faith is essential! But the oversimplification of grief and faith can cause significant pain. Many kind words were spoken to us during those days. Simple words that reminded us of the truth. The truth that our Nichole was in the presence of God and as followers of Jesus, we would see her again! I have no doubt those words were shared with the hope of bringing comfort in the midst of pain.
The problem, however, was reconciling my grief with my belief! Grief can often cloud our feelings about our faith, and our faith can often cloud our feelings about our grief. It’s not that grief and faith should be separated. When grief and faith collide, it is complicated. That’s why simple words are often inadequate. The depth of grief does not imply a loss of faith, and a strong faith does not imply a lack of grief.
What impacted my wife and me most during those days were hugs that said, “I’m here with you. We’ll walk through this together.” Jesus promised his followers those very words. He said,
“I will never leave you…” (Hebrews 13:5) and reminded them that, “I am with you always!” (Matthew 28:20).
That’s the power of a relationship with Jesus. That’s the power of faith!
Grief and belief are a journey. Sometimes the journey is dark and treacherous. Sometimes the journey is long and hard. Reconciling our grief with our faith is only possible because of the promise that Jesus is with us through the journey – no matter where it takes us!