FACING THE DEATH OF A LOVED ONE

Scripture Reading: Genesis 50:1-14

“After he buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.” (Genesis 50:14)

I don’t want to leave the subject of losing a loved one without turning to Elisabeth Elliott’s wonderful article “Facing the Death of Someone You Love.” Elisabeth Elliott experienced the death of two husbands. The first, Jim Elliott, was killed by Auca Indians in Ecuador while he was trying to reach them with the gospel. The second, Addison Leitch, suffered a long battle with cancer. Elisabeth wrote an article in which she explained what helped her through the grief process. Se gave six Scriptural ideas.

First, to be still and know that God is God (from Psalm 46), in which the writer speaks of the earth giving way and the mountains slipping into the sea. Elliott wrote, “Everything that has seemed most dependable has given way.” Even though at such a time all seems to be shaken, they are not, for “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Second, to give thanks.  Some things are hard to be thankful for — death, grief, loneliness. But we can be thankful for God’s promise to be with us through our valley experiences — “Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff will comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Third, to refuse self-pity. Self-pity is one of the most destructive, paralyzing forces in life. Elliott wrote, “It is a death that has no resurrection. a sink hole from which no rescuing can drag you because you have chosen to sink.” We can and must resist self-pity. We have to realize that death, suffering, and sorrow are common to all of mankind.

Fourth, to accept one’s loneliness. This is one of the hardest things of all because God has made us social beings. But loneliness has uses and graces of its own. Through loneliness we become aware of our own helplessness. It is a time when we become more aware of the presence of God and are drawn closer to Him.

Fifth, to offer one’s loneliness to God. As we give it back to God, He will use us in the lives of others. (I wonder how many people have been helped through people like Elisabeth Elliott.) Offering our loneliness to God takes faith. We must trust that God has brought loneliness to our lives and then we can offer it back to God in thanksgiving. He will use our experience in the lives of others.

Sixth, to do something for somebody else. What God does in us, He wants to share through us. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God” (II Corinthians 1:3,4).

Lord Jesus, You have taken me through the valley of the shadow of death when I have lost those whom I love. You have been my refuge and strength, a very present help in my times of trouble. I have experienced loneliness, but You came to me in that loneliness and gave me a renewed sense of Your presence in my life. Thank You for comforting me during times of loss and pain. Enable me to comfort others with the comfort You have given me.

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