Dealing With Loss
by Norma Jackson Goldman
As I write these words, I am wrestling with the reality of the death of someone very dear to me. In a single year, three people in my Bible study group were diagnosed with cancer; each died within a year. It was gut wrenching for our little flock to watch friends
experience pain and suffering. We spent
much time discovering ways to ease
suffering and much heartfelt energy
in intercessory prayer.
As a lay leader, I struggled to keep the focus on the important work we had committed to, all the while paying careful attention to those with serious illnesses. Now, we face yet another serious diagnosis. At best, life is brief; the Psalmist tells us the number of our days is known only to God (Psalm 139:16).
Just this week, a pastor friend and I discussed the challenge of loss, and he told of performing services for three much-loved members of his church family, all young people, seemingly taken in the prime of life. He then made what might seem a curious statement to many. “It’s been distracting,” he said.
I knew instantly what he was experiencing. His is a vibrant church, bursting at the seams and experiencing the challenges of growth. Deeply committed to sharing the Good News of Jesus in a fast-growing suburb of a major city, his team is reaching out to hundreds of unchurched families. Yet, he is compelled to carve out time to experience the pain of loss—his own, and that of his members. This is a critical function of the body of Christ and of a pastor who loves his people.
Jesus modeled this pain for us, and the first story that comes to mind is usually the death of His close friend Lazarus. We are amazed at His sorrow upon learning of Lazarus’ death—deep, discernible mourning. Jesus didn’t arrive in Bethany until Lazarus had been dead four days, as the Lord had been carrying out His own calling, teaching and preaching with an urgency only He understood.
Just as Jesus guided Mary and Martha through grief and loss, my pastor friend will guide his church family through the same process. He will pause to grieve with them. He will encourage them to acknowledge the contributions of those who died; he will stand with them as they view life as the gift of God it truly is. He will acknowledge God’s sovereignty in the giving and taking of life.
While we cannot always see or understand God’s purposes, we trust Him, believing He is at work on our behalf. My friend will encourage his church to be strong in their faith as never before and to resume their lives with purpose and intentionality, knowing the harvest in plenteous, the laborers few, and time for work is short.
Following Christ’s example, we pause to grieve and experience fully the pain of our losses. Strengthened by His comfort and the exercise of our faith, we then take up our work with renewed energy for there is much to do. We share the urgency that Jesus expressed as He said, “I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4). God did not leave us without hope. Even in loss and grief we have the hope of Heaven, the hope of a time when there will be no pain, no loss and no grief.
Pause with me to pray that wise pastors, church leaders, and counselors will encourage all under their care to bear the burdens of loss with grace and return to the work at hand with renewed faith, trusting in the Lord of the harvest.
About the Writer: Former magazine editor Norma J. Goldman enjoys a successful freelance writing career in her retirement. Learn more about how you can retire on your terms at www.boardofretirement.com.