As believers, we know that we can find hope in the resurrection of Jesus. And yet, we still experience deep pain and grief when we lose someone we love. Even during the most painful moments in life, I believe you and I can find comfort in the words Jesus spoke to his family and friends, the night before he died. There are three things Jesus shared that I believe can speak hope to our grieving hearts in times of loss.
#1 YOU CAN KNOW PEACE
On the night of the last supper, Jesus knew he was going to die. As he spoke to his disciples, he understood they would be separated from one another and that tough times lay ahead. They had become the best of friends, in fact, they were more like family. He knew that his friends would grieve his loss, so in his last moments with them, he told them:
“I have spoken these things to you. While I am with you and now the father is going to send to you the comforter, the Holy Spirit, so that you might learn all things. He will bring remembrance of what I have taught you. My peace I leave you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Jesus was saying to the disciples it’s going to be hard. You will grieve. You are going to be so sad and yet in the midst of the grief, you don’t have to be afraid. You can know peace.
#2 SAY WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY
Second, Jesus said, “these things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.” He had been trying to tell the disciples for a while that he would die. They didn’t want to hear it. They didn’t want to talk about it. Do you ever notice this still happens today when we know someone is dying? Often the person dying wants to talk about it, but the people around them want to avoid it out of fear. We are so afraid that the pain of talking about it will just be too much to deal with, so we avoid it altogether. The truth of the matter is, it is so important to talk and say what needs to be said. Because that’s what helps you heal and find hope. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.”
I know that sometimes death comes quickly and loved ones die without warning and you don’t get this chance. As a pastor, I encourage families to write a letter to the person they lost, to give them a chance to express the things they didn’t get to say. When we do an inurnment in the columbarium and we place the ashes in the niche, we invite families to place letters to their loved ones inside the niche. My own father suffered for years with an illness and even though I felt like I said to him all I needed to say, when the day came for his funeral, we gathered at the graveside, talking about what he meant to us. We talked with him that day, telling him all he meant to us and even left symbols at his grave that represented each of our memories. It was very healing for each of us. Jesus said these things I have spoken to you while I am still with you it’s when you say what needs to be said that you begin to open your heart.
#3 RECEIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT
Third, Jesus said, “my Father will send to you the comforter.” This is difficult to translate and sometimes it gets translated as advocate or counselor. “My heavenly Father will send to you the one who is for you the comforter the Holy Spirit who will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I have said.” I think Jesus was encouraging his disciples to embrace their memories because it allows you to open your heart to experience the comforter, the one whom God sends to provide peace.
Whenever we do a funeral here at the church it doesn’t matter which minister is doing it, the one thing we do first is, bring the family together to share stories. Most often, I see the look on each of their faces; they don’t want to be there and they feel it’s too painful to reflect and share memories. As soon as they start to tell stories, they begin to cry, but usually another story is told and they laugh and as time goes by, we all begin to feel the presence of the comforter. People have said over and over again to me that the most healing time was in the moments of sharing and remembering, together. When you sit and you remember and you share the stories you open your heart to experience the comforter who comes to bring peace. I knew God’s peace, Jesus said my peace I leave you my peace I give to you not as the world gives do I give to you let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid.