One fateful night, a pastor is called to the Emergency Room of a large hospital. Two teenagers have been in a horrific car crash. One is in the operating room, and the other in the morgue. Both sets of parents are there. One set waits in hopeful anticipation of the doctor coming out of surgery to say that their son will recover. The other set sits in stunned silence outside the morgue with no hope. But as the night goes on, it is discovered that the dead boy is the son of the parents outside the operating room. Those hopeful parents must now face the reality of death. It falls to the pastor to speak into this situation. What can we say to ease the horror of losing a child?
In the 37th chapter of Genesis, we read of the enormous grief that Jacob felt upon learning of the death of his favorite son, Joseph. We, the reader, know that Joseph is not actually dead but was sold into slavery by his devious and spiteful brothers. His braggadocios stories of his dreams that foretold the brothers bowing down to him as he swaggered in his precious brightly colored coat (a gift of favor from his father) led them to dispose of him in a cruel way. Even more cruel is their ability to watch their father grieve Joseph’s death without rushing to confess that he is alive as they present Jacob with Joseph’s bloody coat:
Genesis 37:33-35 (Common English Bible)
33 Jacob recognized it and said, “It’s my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him. Joseph must have been torn to pieces!” 34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put a simple mourning cloth around his waist, and mourned for his son for many days. 35 All of his sons and daughters got up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted, telling them, “I’ll go to my grave mourning for my son.” And Joseph’s father wept for him.
Jacob’s grief is expressed in a powerfully visible way. He tears his clothes, he mourns and weeps, and he resigns himself to a life of grief that he will take to his grave. Have you ever experienced grief like this? It is said that grief is the price we pay for a love well-loved, and many of us in our lifetime will know the crushing emptiness of death.
For Jacob, his belief that his son was dead was his reality. This reminds us of the power of belief, and perhaps this can be a source of calm reassurance when someone passes. What do you believe happens at death? Where is God?
As crushing as grief can be, we must hold on to the hope of the resurrection to which we are all invited if we believe in Jesus. Upon his own death, Jesus invited the thief on the cross to join him in paradise that very day. In an act of penitence, the thief asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into his kingdom. This was the thief’s confession of faith, and we are assured that upon his death, the thief entered eternal life.
Thus, our belief in eternal life can begin to sooth the horror of deep and overwhelming grief. We will meet again! This is exactly what the pastor said to the grieving parents that night. This is what our Lord says to us in our lowest moments. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5, New Revised Standard Version).
Joy Comes in the Morning by Michelle Robertson