Yesterday I preached at a Memorial Service held at Becontree Avenue Baptist Church.
PSALM 46: 1 – 5 & 10 – 11
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
We have all at sometime suffered the loss of someone we know well or someone we love. It may have been recent or it may be in the past but we have all been there.
We all experience grief in our own way.
Since we are all individuals we deal with grief in our own ways.
When Gaynor and I were away for a few days at the end of January we stayed up near Cromer on the Norfolk coast. This was about a month or so after the terrible storms had come down the North Sea and devastated the East Coast. The damage in places was colossal. Seawalls demolished like children’s sandcastles, beach chalets shattered like so match wood. At one place the beach, the car park and the road to the beach had disappeared under a deep covering of shingle.
Grief can do that to us. All that was permanent and stable in our lives seems to have gone, swept away by one of the storms of life. We just don’t recognise the landscape. It has changed so much in an instant.
Our hopes, dreams and aspirations have come tumbling down around us. Well meaning friends tell us it will be okay soon. I recall years ago when the father of one of my friends died suddenly, his widow was assured at the wake by a relative you’ll soon get over him and find another man.
Each one of us has been there, with the awful news that someone we love has died. Even if we expected it we can never be prepared for it when it happens. It can hit us just like those storms in the winter and it can just keep pounding away at us.
And just like that famous railway line at Dawlish washed away by the storms, the recovery and the repairs can take a great deal of effort and time.
Or maybe our experience is more like the flooding of the Somerset levels. Day after day the grief and the heart ache rain down on us. We are saturated with grief. It floods around us and we feel cut off from the real world. We are isolated not even sure if anyone can hear us let alone help us.
We can become prisoners of our grief.
A while ago I was talking to a young lady whose dad had just died. She just couldn’t take it in that the rest of the world continued with business as usual. “Don’t they know my dad has died?” she asked me.
She was echoing some thoughts in the Bible said to be written by Jeremiah some 2600 years ago: “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around you and see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me?”
People seem not to care. How can they carry on with life not caring what has happened to us? Or so it seems. It’s more likely that they don’t know what we are going through.
Maybe as we try to make sense of what has happened and try to get things sorted, we get more hurts. One man phoned the life insurance company to get a claim form as his mum had died. The helpful person at the call centre said she couldn’t discuss the matter with him as he wasn’t the policy holder. Could he put his mum on the phone to confirm that she was dead so that the claim form could be issued?
Perhaps it’s the day to day things of life that cause us more grief.
How do I write a cheque? He always did that.
How does the washing machine work? How do I cook a dinner? She was always there to do that.
We try to make contact to reach out to those on the outside. Some turn away, cross the road to avoid us, not sure what to say and perhaps afraid to cause even more upset. They dare not ask “How are you?” in case we tell them the truth and they won’t be able to handle it.
Maybe we wonder where God has been in all of this? “Why did you let this happen?” we shout at him. It’s strange that many people only think about God when they are bereaved and many straight away blame him for their loved one’s death.
Or perhaps they just ignore God all together. “There can’t be a God because if there was she wouldn’t have died.”
I don’t have any easy answers for people. I can’t give them platitudes. All I know is that God is there and that things happen. It’s just that this side of heaven we don’t get to see, let alone understand the reasons.
We just have to hold onto what God tells us. In our reading from Psalm 46 we are reminded that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Even if we don’t or can’t feel God’s presence, he is there and he will see us through the storms of life, if we let him.
We are not told that we will never experience the storms of life, but we are told that God will be with us we go through time them.
It is my prayer for you today that you may come to know that God is there and he will see through all the storms of life that you are experiencing.