I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
~ Romans 8:18
What is the most difficult aspect of life to accept, for Christians? In my experience, it is the death of a close family member: a child, a beloved spouse, a parent. The death of someone we have loved so much, for so long, that their passing rips apart the very fabric of our earthly existence.
We know, at least in theory, that we should love Christ more than we love anybody else. He told us this in no uncertain terms: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Yet, one hardly has the heart to preach this to a mother distraught over the death of a child, or a young man whose wife has died in a car accident. It would be churlish and ineffective.
The only suggestion I have for this horrendous problem is to be forewarned and forearmed. Just as we must prepare ourselves for our own death, we must prepare ourselves (and others, where possible) for the possibility that those we love best in life might die before we do. (In fact, in the case of our parents, it is a probability.) And no matter what our age, the death of close family members is disorienting and irreducibly painful.
How am I going to react when X dies? Am I going to be able to find some consolation in Christ, or is my faith going to be shattered beyond repair? Or like many, am I going to go through a period of questioning at the worst possible time? Is Satan going to find me unprepared when I am most vulnerable?
For surely, every person we know and love will die, whether before us or after us. We cannot force them to accept salvation; we can only accept it for ourselves and be assured, even in our darkest moments, that what God has in store for us is more wonderful than the pain we suffer during our lives. Our suffering as human beings can surely be terrible; but God promises us, in Romans 8:18, that our joy will be incomparably greater than even our worst moments on earth.
To take consolation and comfort from God’s promises, and the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, we must be prepared. It isn’t easy to take comfort when all we want to do is mourn! We must get ready, by prayer, meditation, and study, to accept the measure of relief that He affords us while we are still alive, and strength from the certainty that, one day, the sun will certainly rise on our darkness, forever.
Lord God, steel me to turn to you during the painful periods of my life. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer