(Note: I recently was asked to speak at the Lake Harbour Church of Christ just outside of Jackson, MS on the subject of helping one another mourn. Audio and notes are here on this post. I’ll be conducting a grief seminar mostly for parents who have lost children on Saturday, August 15th near Anniston, AL. If you would like more details on that please let me know.)
A Community That Mourns
Every day when we open our newspapers there is a column that never fails to catch our attention: obituaries. Mourning and sorrow – part of the human experience. The first parents were bereaved parents.
Genesis 23:2 And Sarah died …and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.
1 Samuel 30:3-4 When David and his men came to the city, they found it burned down, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept, until they had no more strength to weep.”
There are different kinds of mourning as well … things that bring us sorrow. Disappointments, divorce, loss of career or finances … many more. Even the mourning we do over our own sin.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 There is… a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
How can we become a community that mourns together well?
“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”― G.K. Chesterton
James 1:19 Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger
Job’s friends were best friends for 7 days. Then they began to talk. What does it mean to ‘Listen’?
*Let the person say all that they want say.
*Do not formulate responses as they speak.
*Let them know you ‘get’ what they are saying.
*Ask clarifying questions.
*Listen without judgment; Listening does not mean agreeing.
We become a community that mourns well when we are listening
When you are serving someone who is mourning a loss or disappointment, what do you notice about their situation that you can help? Don’t wait to be asked to serve – look around. “Four things come not back: the spoken word; the spent arrow; time past; the neglected opportunity.” – Swindoll What can you do for this person?
*Household chores – washing, mowing, cleaning
*Food – bringing food, organizing, re-arranging
*Children need transportation?
*Do they need help arranging the funeral?
We become a community that mourns well by listening and observing…
A person who has experienced a loss is in a very vulnerable position – and it is important to respect that. They may say things they wouldn’t normally say. They may express doubt or question their faith. They may also be especially sensitive to things said. This is a time of great weakness and they need care. They have a right to expect confidentiality from us.
God is protective of those in pain.
Sarah’s cruel treatment of Hagar left her and Ishmael crying in the wilderness. (Genesis 21:17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.”)
Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them.
Respecting the vulnerability of others is important.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
There is no timetable when comfort may come.
Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
It is wrong to try to push people back into normal life so that we can feel comfortable with them again. But there also is a time to re-engage with life. How you can help engage the grieving person? Invite the person to do something they like to do (Lunch, shopping, golf, tennis, movies), respecting that they might turn you down at first. Church can be hard for people who are in mourning, offer to pick them up and sit with them. Purchase a book about grief recovery and discuss each chapter as you read it together. Help them plan something that will honor their lost loved one. Be especially aware that if these efforts are resisted,some more time might be needed. Plan to be a friend for the long haul … bereaved people are often not great friends while they attend to healing their own wounds.
For Those Who Are Mourning…
1. Grief Is a natural and health consequence that should occur when a loss has happened.
2. Grief affects a person with their whole being: emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually.
3. Grief is always an individual matter; You NEVER know how another person feels.
(The above three thoughts From Walking With Those Who Weep by Don & Ron Williams)
4. Get Plenty of Rest – Grief is Exhausting.
5. Lean on Family and Friends, Especially During Holidays and “firsts”.
6. Compose a Grief Journal and Reflect Daily.
7. Get Involved With a Grief-Recovery Group
8. Pray and Stay in God’s Word, beyond your questions.
Three Final Scriptures….
Revelation 21:3-5 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends….
Psalm 56:8 You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record?