The story is beyond sad. But the story has Christian hope in it as well. The book isn’t a theology of suffering. It’s more of a Christian journaling about his grief and letting the reader know what he learned through it. I’ve blogged on this book several times.
One of my favorite resources on grief and sorrow in the Christian life is “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser. Jerry lost his daughter, wife, and mother in a single car crash. The story is beyond sad. But the story has Christian hope in it as well. The book isn’t a theology of suffering. It’s more of a Christian journaling about his grief and letting the reader know what he learned through it. I’ve blogged on this book several times. You can use the search function here if you want more info.
Today I re-read the section where Sittser talked about his church family’s role in his grief. I’ll give you two related take home points before I give the quote. First, when grief hits someone in your church family, be there for them with open arms of love and prayer. Second, if grief hits you, don’t run away from the church. Run into her open arms! Here’s the quote:
…I was a member of First Presbyterian Church when the accident occurred. Members of the church immediately rallied to my side. In the short run they overwhelmed our family with food and attention, and in the long run they joined me in grieving our loss. But not ours alone. My tragedy was so public that it gave many people in the congregation permission to face their own losses, some of which had been buried or ignored for years. I have observed churches fail, as many people have. Many churches are full of hypocrites, bigots, and lukewarm Christians, which should surprise no one. Still, I found my church community sympathetic and loyal. I risked giving the church a chance, and the church came through for me and my family.
The communities to which I belonged before the accident, in other words, were the communities to which I belonged after the accident. They supported me as I mourned, adjusted, and changed. Their commitment to remain loyal kept me from having to make still another adjustment – to form a new circle of friends. Their faithfulness created the stability and continuity of relationships I needed to enter the darkness and find a new life after the loss. I grieved with these friends. I grieved because of these friends, for their presence in my life reminded me of the past I had lost. But I also grew because my friends provided security and familiarity in a world that had fallen apart. They made life both worse and better for me, a reminder of what it used to be and a challenge to discover what it could be after the accident. (Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised, p. 179._
Shane Lems is a Minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and is pastor of Covenant OPC in Hammond, WI. This article is used with permission.