Discipleship During Grief
~By: Sylvia Reynolds-Blakely~
This is fresh, so please bear with me. My beloved earthly father went to be with our Lord and Savior yesterday morning. As I type this, it ALMOST doesn’t seem real, and yet I know that he has truly and utterly gone on beyond my reach but is safely in the arms of our Father. He was delighted to go, and, honestly, I am ecstatic for him for I truly believe as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
What hurts the most is that there won’t be any new memories made with him as an active participant. It seems strange, but at this time last year, I was busy making plans for a big birthday celebration at Disney for his 95th birthday. This year, I am still planning to celebrate his birthday, but it will be at a “new life” memorial service at Life Church instead.
It is becoming evident during this process that being loved through grief by those around me who care is one of the greatest gifts we can bestow upon each other. For example, a friend stopped by with a breakfast casserole and massaged some very mean kinks out of my shoulders I didn’t even know I had. She literally brought in a wind of joy with her, and I was reminded of Proverbs 17:22 that states, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Another friend brought over a beautiful bowl of fruit while we were at the funeral home being supported by our oldest friend. Right as I was leaving that appointment, a cousin called and prayed over me as I stood in the hallway.
We are called to bear one another’s burdens as is written in Proverbs 17:17, which says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity,” but when it actually happens, it restores your faith. Today, I got to give back what was deposited in me. I surprised a church member by attending her birthday dinner; the utter shock on her face made the effort more than worthwhile. On the way to the dinner, I called up a friend in my community whose father was just placed on palliative care. During my drive we shared, we struggled to find the right words for our mix of feelings, and we gave each other advice. I sent her a prayer by text once I parked; this was nourishing in a whole other way that I wasn’t expecting. Our Heavenly Father supplies our needs so that we can supply the needs of others.
Consider these discipleship tips during a time of grief as some of the ways God sends us to minister to our brethren:
Call the grieving person -- right away. Don’t wait for some fictional ‘right time.’ The absolute right time is when Holy Spirit prompts you. As Jesus reminded His disciples in Luke 12:12, “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say,” so do not worry, simply pray, and the right words of comfort will come.
Pray with that person before ending the conversation. Saying you will keep them in your thoughts and prayers is good, but hearing someone who loves you bathe you in prayer right then is the balm that is most effective. Remember that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” to heal (James 5:16).
Get in the presence of the bereaved and lay hands on them in a loving and healing way. Make sure that there is no mistake about your intention to heal or anoint as Holy Spirit prompts, as James reminds us in chapter 5 verse 14.
Stay connected by any means necessary. When that person comes to mind, text, call, message, FaceTime, Marco Polo them, or whatever. Those frequent messages might be just what that person needs right at the moment they need it. And, that connection you build puts the devil on notice that he will not succeed in using his isolation tactics to usher in despair, loneliness, and hopelessness. We know that the thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but our Savior has come so that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).
Remind your beloved that there are indeed seasons for all of the emotions that will well up inside of them (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), and that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus if their flesh fails them and they then seek the Spirit (Romans 7:24-25; 8:1). Encourage them to keep their eyes fixed not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18) and to be accepting of the tribulations of this life, because the gift of the Holy Spirit is our Savior’s loving gift to us (Romans 5:1-8).
And when the bereaved finds themself in perfect peace, encourage them to accept it as the promise of our faithful God to His children in their season of grief. I send you much love!