I haven’t written a blog entry in awhile. A few weeks to be exact. I couldn’t. I’ve been grieving. Two weeks ago, my dad passed away. He was not in good health, but his death came as a shock.
I’ve been busy phoning family and friends, crying, working with the funeral director, helping my mom, making the necessary travel arrangements, coordinating the memorial service, praying, and missing my Dad. He was not only my father, he was my friend.
In the midst of the painful chaos, my Christian community showed up. They showed up in a big way! Phone calls, meals, prayers, texts, hugs, emails, monetary gifts, cards—just about every possible way that a person can receive support—my wife and I received it. In the midst of the pain of losing my Dad, my family felt a deep sense of peace and comfort and love. Not because of something that we had done, but because of the love of Jesus that others exhibited to us.
My father’s death is the second parental death that our small group has experienced in the past six months. We’re all in our late 30s and early 40s, so I suppose it’s time that we’re starting to run headlong into the mortality of those we love. Yet these things are never expected. Even though we must all die, there remains an unexpected sting of finality that you just can’t prepare for. It hits hard and it hurts.
In times of deep loss, pain, and sadness, Jesus is our source of comfort and strength. In Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 11, Jesus gives us an amazing invitation. He says, “Come to me, all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”(NLT)
Jesus invites us to come when we’re burdened, when we’re troubled, and when we’re deeply grieved. He invites us to come to Him. But he doesn’t just invite us. He follows up the invitation with a promise. He says, “I will give you rest.”
It is in that rest, the peace that comes from Jesus, where we can truly receive and be ministered to through the service of others. This is the place where the support of the family of faith—the small group—is so critical!
In Group’s Emergency Response Handbook for Small Group Leaders, they give a few key tips to minister to someone who who’s just suffered significant loss like I did. My family has been the recipients of three things the book suggests.
1. Support Your Friend – It’s important the small group keeps in touch during this time.
2. Meet Specific Immediate Needs – Pool the expertise in your small group to help with immediate needs.
3. Remember Long Term Needs – There are many things your small group can continue to do as your friend works through the grieving process.
As I’ve attempted to sort through my grief these past couple of weeks, I’ve seen the love of Christ exhibited in many unique ways through many different people. It has helped to grow my faith and strengthen my appreciation for my faith community.