One year ago today Midway Baptist unexpectedly lost Randy Wilder, a dear brother and servant leader to our congregation. You will find below his oldest daughter’s insights into grieving as a Christian. We are thankful for her willingness and pray it will be helpful to others – MBC
Grief and the Christian
On December 9, 2012 he had a stroke of the major kind. No one wants to have a stroke, but especially not this kind. The kind where you are no longer able to do anything you’d like – things like sit up, eat, and breathe on your own — but the kind that leaves the mental ability to consider what it all means for you, a “kindness” no one asked for. A very long 8 days later Midway was forced to say goodbye to a beloved music minister, and I was forced to say goodbye to a very beloved Dad.
Watching someone die forces you feel several feelings you never wanted to know you could feel. Looking Death in the eyes leaves you with no doubt that he [death] doesn’t belong here, in this life, on this earth. Watching death take someone you love makes you desperately wish you didn’t Believe, because somehow that feels easier than having to deal with the struggle of doubt that the God you believe in and love is still kind and Good. Beyond that, the end of life makes you hope desperately that you haven’t in fact encountered The End, otherwise life hasn’t turned out to be a great story and it certainly doesn’t have a happy ending.
Grief is a tricky monster to wrestle with—we’ve learned this especially in the past year at Midway. He’s a tricky, subtle beast; you might wish he was overt and obvious, but he’s not—he’s sly, and patient, and, if you let him be, destructive.
To the grieving Christian:
1) Being sad is okay. We don’t have to pretend to have it all together in the name of Christianity. There’s room for bad days and bad weeks and bad seasons. If the lord you serve cannot handle your bad, he’s no lord at all.
2) Mourn, and mourn well. Blessed are those who mourn, comfort is promised. Do not neglect to feel the emotions you were created with, but Christian: do not let your emotions black out Truth. God is still Kind. Take one look into the book of Job, especially chapters 38-42, and know the God who clothes clouds, sends lightning, gives horses their might, and commands eagles to fly sees your emotion, knows your situation and is in command of it—and He loves you.
3) Be encouraged when the “Christian things” that people say to you aren’t helpful. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad Christian. It doesn’t mean you don’t believe them to be true. It doesn’t mean you should feel guilty. It DOES mean you’re human, and you’re hurting. BUT:
4) Guard your heart from bitterness. Appreciate the well-meaning heart behind words that aren’t helpful. Feel joy with and for others who receive the miracle you didn’t. Remind your hurting heart to submit to Truth and take comfort.
5) There is Freedom. There is Grace. Being honest with your feelings to others and to God brings liberty, and you’ll be grateful to know the grace of others and of God. The beauty of our great God is when he aims to do something, he does it. And His aim toward to you is to keep you, whether you feel you want to be kept or not. His grace will bring you through your unwillingness to be kept (that will happen!) to a place of thanksgiving that he kept you still.
6) You are not alone in your grief. The body of Christ, the Church, is full of people who have different stories with similar scenes. You aren’t the only one to experience an act or two of grief. Find others and cling to them. Find hope and comfort in their testimonies of God’s Goodness. See the beauty of grace and freedom unfold in their stories, and hold tight until your story takes its turn.
To the Christian ministering to those who grieve:
1) Mourn with those who mourn. You don’t have an answer to why this has happened, and its okay (and refreshing) to admit that. Don’t fumble to find an answer, just help bear the burden of your hurting sibling and trust Grace to do its job.
2) Be Grace. Your grieving friends will, Lord willing, come to you. They are hurting. They are doubting. They are angry. They are vulnerable. Show grace. Be quick to listen, and slow to speak.
3) Know when to “preach”. There will be a time when the Truth of scripture will need to be spoken. Be aware and prayerful about when that time is. To be helpful: it’s not at the hospital, it’s not at the funeral, and it’s probably not even one month later. It will come, though, so be ready, be loving, and be confident in the work of God’s word.
4) Guard your brothers and sisters. In such a whirlwind time, those who grieve are probably not those who think well. Watch for destructive behaviors, thoughts, and actions. Treat them with love—and Love does not allow such destruction to continue. Be on guard for the hearts of your siblings in Christ when they don’t want to be. This will do well for those you love who hurt.
Death is not the end of the story. Grief is not your parting emotion. Neither of these will last forever. God, in love, sent his Son, Jesus, to redeem the world through his life—then death—then resurrection. For those who believe in Him, like I do and like my Dad did, we are blessed to take on the righteousness of his life, blessed to not have to face death alone, and as an End to our story we are blessed to join Christ in a resurrection most glorious where all sad things come undone.
“And, one day, when he comes back to rule forever, the mountains and trees will dance and sing for joy! The earth will shout out loud! His fame will fill the whole earth—as the waters cover the sea! Everything sad will come untrue. Even death is going to die! And he will wipe away every tear from every eye.”
Jesus Storybook Bible
Operation “No More Tears”