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Hope, Grief & Loss: A Reflection

Andrew Chadwick,

As we come to Remembrance Sunday, many Christian communities will be holding special events to remember those who we have lost over the last year, alongside our remembrance of those killed in war. Andrew Chadwick, Chaplain of the Church Army Mission Community, has been reflecting on how we hold to our faith in the face of loss and grief.

As we read Scripture, throughout Lamentations and the Psalms grief and anguish are poured out across the pages – cries from a place of bewilderment, brokenness, anger, loss and pain. There is immense integrity in the Psalms expressing hurt and even feelings of being deserted by God. Questions are fired at God about the author’s unrelieved suffering and unanswered prayer.

When we experience and express the emptiness and barrenness of bereavement our hearts can echo the Psalmist’s words “my soul is downcast within me”.

  • I don’t know how you express your experience of grief, but you might recognise some of the feelings portrayed in these famous quotes:
    The death of a beloved is an amputation.
    C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
  • “You don’t know who is important to you until you actually lose them.”
    Mahatma Gandhi“
  • Come back. Even as a shadow, even as a dream.
    Euripides

Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations, received words from God to pass on to the people of Israel. He warned them of the danger of rejecting their God to fulfil their sinful appetites rather than trusting His promises. Jeremiah wept over the destruction of Jerusalem, his own people. He was devastated when he saw his people taken into captivity but he knew this would not last forever! The Captivity of Israel was prophesied, but so was God’s promise of restoration of those left behind. Israel was in slavery in Babylon for 70 years yet Jeremiah says “I say to myself, The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.””. Lamentations 3: 24

Bereavement often demands that we ‘wait’ for the Lord. We wait for His promise to be fulfilled.
He also says: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

Despite the long wait to see God’s promises fulfilled hope still lived in Jeremiah!

Maybe you can relate to some of the encouragements in bereavement:

  • “Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.”
    Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever
  • “I hold it true, whate’er befall;
    I feel it when I sorrow most;
    ‘Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all.”
    Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam
  • “Grief does not change you, … It reveals you.”
    John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
  • “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
    J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
  • “The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
    The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”
    Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

God promises us His comfort. “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.” 1 Thessalonians 4
Looking back over our lives we recall God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises and these memories can hold us in times of sadness or trouble. What has helped me get through bereavements is when family and friends shared our loss together. We talked about our memories of the person’s traits, the funny incidents, the challenges they faced and their faith. I have lost count of the number of funerals I’ve taken, well over a hundred, but one of the greatest encouragements was hearing those who had suffered loss, both Christian and not yet Christian, talk about God’s faithfulness in holding them through their darkest days. His compassions never fail. We have the sure hope in Jesus. We belong to God who promises He will never let us go. We have the promise of eternal life.

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:40

His compassions never fail – Amen!

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