You know, there are very few things that test the faith of a Christian like the loss of a dearly loved person. It is very important when death occurs that families come to the point where they are somewhat prepared for bereavement. In a situation where family members, including the children, have been able to talk about the impending death, when death does occur, the family can deal with it wisely.
Children need to be taught that death is not a dreadful event to be feared but is rather a natural process. Children should hear death spoken of naturally and easily without a lot of undue emotion. If the Master calls at your home, the experience of sorrow can be turned into glad triumph if the family members have the strong assurance that their loved one lives on in a state that is totally removed from natural and physical restrictions.
When death comes to a home where it has been discussed the children are not going to be stunned. Family members will be able to take the blow with less pain. The pain of death is much less severe for a family that does not brood about it but cheerfully returns to activities. A week ago I was at the home of a friend who had lost a loved one. The very next Sunday the family went to church. It was difficult but it not only strengthened their faith, it was also a tremendous blessing to other people who saw them in church.
We must not fail to educate our family members in the faith which is able to meet death without fear, a faith which turns death to triumph even when death calls a dearly loved one. I once read an article on how to practice the art of dying. At first I thought the subject was quite unusual but when I read the article, I came to the conclusion that the author had some very good things to say. There is an art to dying. There are things that one must do to prepare for it. If one is properly prepared. the preparation will not only help him, it will also help to prepare others.
Grief is common. It is common to all mankind. We just can't escape it. We must live with it. An old parable tells of a woman who lost her only son. She was grief-stricken and she went from house to house asking for medicine to relieve her agony. At last she went to an advisor, a spiritual advisor. This individual said he could cheer her with a few grains of mustard seed if she would bring them to him.
The only stipulation was that the mustard seed must come from a home in which no one had lost a child, a husband, parent, or a dear friend. So she went from house to house. In every case she found some loved ones had been lost. She went through the whole neighborhood and the grief-stricken mother began to understand that her grief was not unique. "How selfish I am in my grief," she said to herself. Then coming to terms with reality she noted that death is common to all. In grief we are the problem until we accept reality and surrender the selfishness that keeps us in our gloom.
There is a difference between accepting a loss and having a deep remorse for the loss. We must treat loss not with a casualness and not without pain. We have to treat it in a very pointed manner. We must accept death, and as we accept it, we will relax in God's arms. There can be a continual freshness of a loss but it will be an accepted type of loss. One of my dear friends lost a son in an accident. She went through the agony with grace and acceptance. She said thoughtfully, "There are times when it stabs me like a sharp knife. It may happen on a bright day in the woods, or as I work in my office." We all know something of that experience.
We know something, too, of the great love of God. I say something of it, and it is love that ties us to a loved one even when he or she has passed on. It is the memory of a very cherished relationship and it comes back to haunt us in forms of memories, sometimes when we least expect it. Not to haunt us, but to remind us like Tennyson said, "It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." In it all, in the black clouds of doubt, when gloom settles like fog and low clouds close over the mountain top, GOD IS THERE.
Dr. Leslie D. Weatherhead of London said that on one occasion he sat by the bedside of a dying man and held his hand. Evidently he unknowingly held the man's hand very tightly, and the patient said an unusual thing, "Don't pull me back. It looks so wonderful further on." On another occasion a dying person said, "If I had strength to hold a pen I would write how easy and pleasant a thing it is to die."
If a man dies will he live again? The answer is YES, very definitely, YES.