It’s been a couple of months since my father-in-law passed away suddenly after a short battle with cancer, which ushered our family into a season of unexpected grief and loss. Surprisingly, it’s also been a season of great blessing for our family as we have experienced the loving-kindness, the comfort, and the faithfulness of God and His people in a whole new way.
It was a Friday morning when I got the call from my husband that his father was found unresponsive at home and that he was going to the hospital to be with him. Not wanting to cram unnecessary bodies into the small hospital room, I decided to wait at home with the baby until I had more information. In the meantime, I prayed and contacted our church family to ask for prayer.
One of my friends, a mother of four, responded to my request for prayer not only by praying, but also by volunteering to watch my daughter so that I could go to the hospital. I was deeply touched by her thoughtfulness, and I thanked her, hoping I wouldn’t have to take her up on her offer.
It soon became apparent that my presence was needed at the hospital. When my husband called, unable to speak, I knew it was time to go. I dropped off our daughter and met my husband near the entrance of the ER where he told me the news: his dad was on life-support, and it was time to say goodbye.
We spent several long hours in that hospital room, waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. Anticipating our imminent loss was the hardest part of that day. Once all had gathered, the family tearfully said their goodbyes, and my father-in-law peacefully died.
After he passed, our family clung to God’s promise in Romans 8:28 that He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” and we fervently prayed that He would bring good out of our loss.
And He did.
Though the days that followed my father-in-law’s passing were a blur of activity, they were punctuated with moments of comfort as our family and our brothers and sisters in Christ reached out to us in love to offer up their sympathy and support. We received phone calls, cards, text messages, and visits from people near and far who wanted to let us know that they cared about us and were there for us.
Somehow, through the sadness, a sense of thanksgiving permeated our household as God brought to mind our many blessings. We gave thanks for the times that we had to visit Jim while he was sick and for our opportunity to say a final good-bye. We were grateful for old memories and for the knowledge that he was no longer suffering and in pain. By God’s grace, we were able to experience comfort in the midst of a
It was at Jim’s memorial service, however, that we most clearly saw God’s hand at work as He poured out His love and comfort through our relatives and our church family. Though we live about forty minutes away from our church, about a dozen of our brothers and sisters in Christ made the drive to offer up their condolences to both us and our family, despite not knowing our father-in-law. This demonstration of love not only profoundly blessed us, but, as we later learned, also touched the hearts of our
In their act of love, I saw these words of Christ come to life:
John 13:34-35. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The sermon that followed was the most touching and Spirit-filled that I have ever sat through. Grounded in Ecclesiastes, it gave the listeners a chance to reflect on not only Jim’s life, but also on their own lives in light of eternity. During the reception that followed, we knew our prayers had been answered as a number of people came up to us and relayed how the meaningful sermon had spoken to their souls. In this we saw God beginning to “work all things together for good.”
This experience, while tragic and heart-wrenching, has only served to deepen my faith in the God whom I serve. Through our difficult season, He sustained us, comforted us, and encouraged us through both His people and His presence. Experiencing God’s faithfulness and comfort in such a personal way has prompted me to leave you with two words of exhortation, one for the person in a season of grief and one for the church.
To the person in a season of grief or darkness: I pray that you will find hope and encouragement in “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” for it is He “who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). If you put your trust in Him, He will “work all things together for good” and use this difficult season for His good purposes. Keep walking in faith and obedience, for if we look to Jesus’ example, after the suffering comes glory.
To the church: We are a family through Christ which means we’re all in this together! Scripture calls us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). So if you’ve got a brother or a sister whom you know is struggling, be intentional. Call, text, and let that person know that you care. Come alongside them to share their burdens and meet their needs in love. When you live out your calling and love each other like Christ, God is glorified, and the world takes notice.
Have you ever experienced God’s comfort and faithfulness in a difficult season? How can you intentionally show love to those around you who are struggling?