Practicing Faith: God wraps his arms around us in our pain – The Westerly Sun

practicing-faith:-god-wraps-his-arms-around-us-in-our-pain-–-the-westerly-sun

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It was my fourth funeral in two weeks. I had presided over three of them. On this day, I sat there listening to the priest. He was celebrating the funeral Mass for a woman who had died much too soon. I always ask myself the same question when I am called to do a funeral service. “What do you say to someone who has lost a spouse, a parent or a child?” There are no words that can assuage the pain of the loss. I came to terms with that a long time ago.

I remember asking my pastor that question. I was still in seminary when I was called upon to perform my first funeral. My best friend’s grandfather had passed away. I had never done a funeral before. I wanted to do a good job for the family. Rev. Brooks told me that there is nothing you can say that will make the hurt go away. All you can do is hold up the hope of the Gospel. “Remind them of their faith,” he said. “Share the hope we have in Christ.”

That’s what Rev. Brooks did for me. My natural mom died when I was 13 years old. She was a troubled soul. At 17 years old she married my dad so she could escape from home. By the time she turned 18, she had me. My brother was born a few years later. By 28 years old she was lost. She left us and went looking for meaning in her life. She thought she could find it in a bottle. Sadly, the bottle took hold of her life and a few years later she was gone.

I received a letter shortly after she died. My mom wrote that a friend invited her to church. That night she heard a message that changed her. For the first time in her life she felt that she mattered, that someone loved her. She wrote that she had finally found what she was searching for. She was going to start over and make positive changes in her life. Sadly, she never got a chance. Yet, I’ve often thought about the power of the Gospel to give us hope.

So when the priest quoted Revelation 21 in his message last week, my ears perked up. The message was loud and clear. God feels our pain and enters into our sorrow. The apostle John says in verse 3, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.’ I was reminded that God is always with us. In times of trouble, he wraps his arms around us and comforts us.”

That was the point of the incarnation. The prophet Isaiah said the messiah would be called “Emmanuel” which means “God with us.” Read through the Gospels. It is quite clear that Jesus gravitated toward people who were hurting and troubled. He says in Matthew 11: 28, “Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens ... and I will give you rest.” In another place he says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

The comfort comes in knowing that we are not alone. When tragedy strikes, God is with us. When challenges arise, God will be there. When we feel overwhelmed, God will wrap his arms around us and whisper in our ear, “I love you.” The hope comes in knowing that in Christ, God has claimed victory over our greatest enemy, death itself. The resurrection points toward that day when all in Christ shall be raised again to live forever with him in paradise.

On that day, the apostle says in Revelation 21:4, God “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.” No one can take away the sting of death, but we have this hope. If you are mourning this day, I pray that you will hold onto that hope and look to the day when God himself will wipe away your tears and give you a glimpse of our glorious future.

The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.

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