How Gratitude Can Grow Out of Grief

July 27, 2016

Steve Viars

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Steve Viars

This morning I had the opportunity to sit down with a couple from our church whose young nephew died in a car accident a few days ago.  He was a Marine visiting family members around the country in-between deployments.  He had just called his grandpa during a stop for gas and refreshments.  Fifteen minutes later he was involved in an accident with a semi-truck and never regained consciousness.

This dear man and wife from our church were with the family in the hospital when their nephew was ushered into eternity.  The grief was thick in the air as we rehearsed all they had experienced.

Perhaps this next statement will make sense especially to my fellow church leaders—some days you especially feel like a pastor.  You know that God has called you to weep with those who weep, and you count it a special privilege to do so.  Comforting those who are suffering is an important part of our counseling role.

I too had many thoughts and emotions as I listened to my friends pour out their own.  One category that bubbled to the surface for all of us was that of thanksgiving.

We found ourselves in the counseling room being especially thankful for Jesus, our sympathetic Savior and High Priest.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)

We know He wept at the tomb of Lazarus and therefore modeled for us the power and appropriateness of expressing our emotions freely before Him and one another (Jn. 11:32-36).  It was refreshing to be able to cry out to Christ and ask Him for strength, grace, and healing.  It was not a matter of searching for answers—it was a matter of searching for a Person who has invited us to come to the throne of grace and find mercy and grace to help in time of need.

We were also thankful for God’s sufficient Word.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

These dear folks spoke of how the family gathered around this young man as he was slipping into eternity and read the Scripture to him and one another.  Thankfully this young Marine had a clear and compelling testimony which allowed everyone involved to cling to the great and precious promises recorded in the Bible regarding those who die in Christ.  I cannot imagine trying to provide counsel at a time like this apart from God’s inspired Word.  Watching His Spirit use His Word to minister to those who are grieving is a marvelous sight to behold.

Lastly, there was a profound sense of gratitude for Christ’s church.  This family would affirm that in a sense, they had been counseled week after week as they faithfully worshipped Christ and studied the Word in a corporate setting.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19)

Once the hurricane hits, it is often too late to “go find a Bible.”  But these people were grounded, because they had benefitted from the provisions available in the house of God.  The counsel I was able to provide today was in the setting of eternal truths they had known for many years.  The sting of unexpected bereavement placed such truths in sharper focus, but it was not anything new because it did not have to be.  They were well prepared when the strong winds blew.

Counseling in a church setting is an amazing privilege because of the comprehensive nature of the care.  That is especially true when a rock solid Marine appears at the door and gives the worst news imaginable.  Thank the Lord for not only calling us to comfort those who are suffering but also for providing the resources necessary to love such persons well.