Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I am fairly sure most people have heard of Sir Bob Geldof, the Irish-born singer who has made quite an impact around the world – not just for his songs, but for raising millions of dollars for poverty-stricken countries like Africa, and his Live Aid concerts.
He has had quite an influence worldwide, with many respecting him. The Queen gave him a knighthood in 1986 and he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin. He was also awarded a Man of Peace award. But his personal life has had its share of loss and sadness. Both his ex-wife and daughter died. His friend actor Neil McCormick wrote, “Bob Geldof has endured a lot of personal tragedy in his life”. He is not the only person to experience tragedy, but his life is open to scrutiny as a public person, and many are fascinated by what happens.
Geldof saw suffering and sadness close up in Africa as part of his humanitarian work. But his mother’s death was especially difficult. He was only seven. He wrote about her death:
“When you’re a kid it just happens. You get on with life. I don’t remember grief for my Mum, or bewilderment. But it was overwhelming, a mass of loss and pain”.
In 1994, CBC Radio host Peter Gzowski speaking at a funeral service for the untimely death of a colleague journalist Barbara Frum said, “And so we return now to a real but diminished world.” Death creates a diminished world. Maybe Bob Geldof’s response to grief was his passion to eradicate poverty and to become so involved in this cause. I don’t know for sure, but it’s a possibility.
The reality of grief
Grief is painful and many of us know that all too well. There are other forms of grief too. A broken marriage can cause deep-felt grief. Being fired from your work is a grief experience: “You’re through,” clean out your desk. Life is turned upside down.
Grief will come in many forms but the most difficult is the sudden, unexpected loss of a loved one. These feelings are really the price we pay for loving. Death is not a subject we like to talk about but there is the reality of grief.
Counsellors tell us there are three stages in the grieving process:
- First, there is the crisis stage. We get the awful news, and it’s as if we go into shock. We might deny it, we may cry, we may scream. But we are in emotional distress. Our world has suddenly fallen apart. This most painful stage of grief usually lasts a few days.
- Second, in what some call the crucible stage. We begin to deal with the tragedy of death. Anger often will arise, toward a drunk driver, toward the hospital team, toward yourself, even toward God — why did you let this happen? There can be guilt and deep depression, and an overwhelming sense of sadness.
- Third, there is the stage of rebuilding our lives, the construction stage. Here we construct new patterns of living that are not emotionally tied to the past. For some this may mean getting a job, or selling the house and starting a new chapter of life.
The good and bad grief
There is good grief and there is bad grief.
Grief is like steam in a kettle or an engine! It must have an outlet. Sometimes we blame God for the death of a family member or close friend. Some of us get stuck on the question, “Why did God permit that to happen?“ and we can’t get over it. We blame God. Grief drives a wedge between us and God. We think He doesn’t care and doesn’t understand. After all, He has the power to heal; He’s done it before. Why not for me? In fact, this question can be a healthy question. It’s better than burying the disappointment and not dealing with it. The buried grief can lead to anger and anger left unchecked will show itself in our attitudes and our words, and in our relationship with the Lord. We then keep God at a distance, “Don’t come too close. I don’t want a bar of you – I don’t trust you”.
Remember that life is not fair but God is good. Dr Robert Schuller has a book by that title, and it’s certainly true. But sometimes it’s difficult to accept. The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther lost a son. His wife Katie shouted at him, “Where was God when our son died?” Martin replied, “The same place he was when his Son died. He was there watching and weeping.”
We can’t forget the pain. Grief is a reality. But the comforting word is this, Jesus weeps with us. When you are beside a hospital bed, don’t think for a moment that Jesus is not there; it might feel like He’s not there, but He is. And if He’s not doing anything else, He is weeping with you and for you. Death does make a difference to us – I can’t deny that. But with Jesus at the centre of our lives, we can go forward. A tragic loss will test our faith. There may be a time of struggle when you don’t want to talk to God. But hold onto Him, for He is the resurrection and the life.
One commentator said, “Apart from trust in God, the world is a cemetery”, Yes, a fairly negative comment but into the world, God has sent in Jesus, resurrection life, the opportunity to pass from death to life. Just as the crowds wanted bread and Jesus offered them living bread, so Mary and Martha, two sisters in the New Testament whose brother had died, believed Jesus could have intervened. They wanted their brother returned and Jesus offers resurrection life to them and to the whole world.
Grief is painful for everyone
Yes, apart from trust in God, life is a cemetery, but into this world, God has sent Jesus with the offer of resurrection life.
- Have you thought about your grief today?
- What’s happened in your life that is a heavy burden?
Maybe your son or daughter died too early, and you’ve struggled with grief. Why not talk to the Lord about your grief.
Grief is painful even for those who know Christ. But let’s remember, Jesus understands, as we weep, Jesus weeps with us and for us. One day all those tears will be gone and resurrection life will prevail eternally. Jesus is preparing to speak to the dead once again and breathe life into our shadow of death.
There is an old gospel hymn that has these words:
When answers aren’t enough, there is Jesus;
He is more than just an answer to your prayers.
And your hearts will find a safe and peaceful refuge.
When answers aren’t enough, He is there.”