Grief affects all of us differently. An insurance man was settling up with a woman who had just lost her husband. He had brought a check for $50,000.00 to present to her. She looked at it and said (with a little catch in her throat), “You know, I miss him so much, I’d give $25,000.00 of this to have him back.”
Last week I prepared a meal and put it on the table. When Jonathan arrived, he looked at the meal and said,”Aren’t there TV dinners in the freezer?” Yes, but they are for emergencies. “Isn’t this an emergency?” I recall the words of Jesus to the believers as they sat on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
I am aware that God grieves when we grieve. Now, only a dear friend can be grieved. Not a stranger: he might be annoyed. Not a chance acquaintance: he might be perplexed. Not a business partner: he might be offended. Only a loved one can be grieved.
Steve Brown tells about an incident (fictional we’re sure) in the Atlanta airport. The air traffic controller said, “Pan Am flight 407, you are cleared to land on runway B.” Just seconds later, the same controller said to another pilot, “American flight 36, you are cleared to land on runway B.” A frantic message was immediately heard in the control tower:
“Tower, this is Pan Am flight 407. You just cleared me to land on runway B and now you cleared American flight 36 to land on the same runway.” After a long pause, the controller’s voice was heard again. “Well, uh, ya’ll be careful now.”
The promise of scripture is that God is faithful; he will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. (1 Cor. 10:13)In the middle of grief we sometimes wonder just how much we can bear. Has God really pushed us to our limit? And then I understand just how wonderful God is! In our grief we go through all of the classic stages: Denial = Disbelief that this can happen to me. Anger = Finding targets to blame. Bargaining = Let us make a deal. Despair = Depression. Acceptance. No matter what stage we find ourselves in, God loves us.
Moses was an incredible man. Here was a man born to a Jewish family, but in order to save his life, his mother hid him in the river. The daughter of Pharaoh went down to bathe and found Moses. Moses’ life is divided into three parts: The first 40 years are in Egypt in the house of Pharaoh. Moses gets the best of everything. He kills an Egyptian for mistreating a Jew. The second 40 years are in the desert. He became a shepherd for Reuel the priest of Midian. He marries Zipporah and they have two children. The third 40 years are delivering the children of Israel from bondage to their new promised land. Here God uses Moses in a powerful way that forever changes the Jewish nation. Ten plagues are used by Moses. For the rest of his life Moses leads the children in the desert. He argues with God about destroying the Israelites and prevails. He delivers the 10 Commandments. Moses gets so close to God that his face begins to glow. However, Moses is not permitted to enter the promised land. He had been disobedient.
And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab….God buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. There is a great deal of mystery surrounding this death and burial. JUD 1:9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” It was important for the New Testament story to have Moses. (Matthew 17:2-3) His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died….The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over. God allows them to grieve! The human body hurts and it must recover. And it is important that we give ourselves time and permission to grieve.
A few years ago, the press carried a heartrending story of a young father who shot himself in a tavern telephone booth. James Lee had called a Chicago newspaper and told a reporter he had sent the paper a manila envelope outlining his story. The reporter frantically tried to trace the call, but was too late. When the police arrived the young man was slumped in the booth with a bullet through his head. In his pockets they found a child’s crayon drawing, much folded and worn. On it was written, “Please leave in my coat pocket. I want to have it buried with me.” The drawing was signed in childish print by his blonde daughter, Shirley Lee, who had perished in a fire just five months before. Lee was so grief stricken he had asked total strangers to attend his daughter’s funeral so she would have a nice service. He said there was no family to attend since Shirley’s mother had been dead since the child was two. Speaking to the reporter before his death, the heartbroken father said that all he had in life was gone and he felt so alone. He gave his modest estate to the church Shirley had attended and said, “Maybe in ten or twenty years, someone will see one of the plaques and wonder who Shirley Ellen Lee was and say, ‘Someone must have loved her very, very much.'”
“The greatest loss – There are many kinds of sorrow on earth, but the deepest of all sorrows is when the heart loses Christ, and He is no longer seen, and there is no hope of comfort from Him. All comfort has gone, all joy is ended, there is no help from heaven or sun or moon, from angel or any creature.
When we allow God to grieve with us, we work through it. It is normal and it is healthy. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over. Then they moved on!