May 18, 2011
Finding God in Grief
Sarah Phillips, Crosswalk.com Family Editor
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'" Luke 24: 30 - 33
A few weeks ago I wrote about the hope we have in Christ even when faced with the death of a loved one. Little did I know, I would have to put those words into practice just a few days later when a close friend of mine went home to our Lord after a two-year battle with cancer.
My friend Christopher was only 33 -- a newlywed who had so much life and love left in him. Family, friends, and doctors desperately wanted to see him win over the cancer and many times it appeared he would. The death of this strong, vibrant, young friend came as a shock for me.
On many levels, Christopher’s story is a tragic one, and I won’t deny that. Yet, mere days after his death, I am experiencing a peace I didn’t fully expect.
When I look back on the past two years of his diagnosis and treatments, I know God was there. And Chris, a man of faith, would tell you God was there taking care of him.
Some may wonder how in situations like this one we can claim God was there? Where is our hope when things seem to end so badly?
One of my favorite Easter season gospels is the story of the Road to Emmaus recorded in Luke 24: 13 - 35. Two unnamed disciples of Jesus were traveling to the village of Emmaus, discussing the events of the crucifixion and deeply mourning all that had taken place. Hope seemed to be completely shattered.
Then, a third traveler – the risen Christ – joined them along the road. Yet grief -- and perhaps their intellects -- seemed to cloud the travelers' vision, and they did not recognize Him. It’s not until the end of the day, when they sit down to eat with this strange traveler, that they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
There are a lot of deep, theological implications to this passage, but the first truth that comes to mind here comes in the form of a question: How often are we those travelers? How often has the risen Christ stood before us, and we just couldn't see Him? I often felt that way in some of our earlier conversations in the days and months following Christopher’s diagnosis... like we were all walking around Christ in circles, unable to make sense of it all and unable to sense God’s presence.
And yet Christ was there and continues to be here for us just as He was for His disciples centuries ago. He has so much compassion for us, especially in the midst of sad and perplexing situations. He finds ways to unfold truth to us, give us hope, enlighten our minds and create a burning in our hearts. And one day, like those travelers to Emmaus, we find ourselves startled - and overcome with joy - at Christ’s very real presence.
From a distance, I watched this process unfold in my friend. God reached out to him through the expert doctors, through friends and family, and perhaps most poignantly through his new bride, a woman of faith.
As my friend Christopher’s time drew near, I watched his faith increase. He spoke of hope and faith in the Lord, read his Bible and prayed regularly. Although Chris faced death, I have no doubt that for him, death was the path that brought him face to face with the risen Christ.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Revelation 21: 4 states, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Christ's death and resurrection is our eternal source of hope even when everything else we place our hope in fails us. This week, reach out to someone you love who does not yet know Christ.