One thing that I often encourage people to do after a loss is to come to worship the Sunday following it. That's because I firmly believe that one of the best ways to heal and work through your time of grief is to be with your faith family where you are called to take your eyes off of yourself and the situations that you are facing and place them on the God of all comfort who loves you so much that He sent His very own Son to live, die, and rise again for your salvation. I don't ever pressure anyone to do this of course and I certainly understand that some are not able to emotionally at the time, especially if the death of the loved one occurred just a few short days before Sunday. It can be very difficult for some people. But I do try to encourage it. And after this past Sunday, when my wife and I personally put my advice into practice, I can even more so attest to the need of being in corporate worship on the Sunday following a loss. On the need of being in corporate worship any week really, but especially when you are facing some sort of pain. And in this fallen world under the curse of sin, really who isn't?
Friday a week ago, we found out the surprising news that we were expecting. Then certain issues arose late last week leading us to the Emergency Room to discover that Laura had lost the baby. This is not the first time that we have had to walk down this road. Back in April, we experienced our first miscarriage. And anyone who has ever gone through this knows that it is a different type of grief. You are not just grieving the loss of a life but the loss of a life that you never knew. A life that you had anticipated to come to know and share so many special memories with. A life that you looked forward to seeing develop and who he or she would become. A life that you never got the chance to hold, kiss, read stories to, bandage wounds, give advice to, teach to drive, or walk down the aisle. I honestly don't know how anyone could make it through such grief without firm confidence in the sovereignty of God; that He is in control of all things and absolutely everything occurs according to His all wise divine plan. I know that we wouldn't!
Laura and I discussed whether or not to attend worship this past Sunday morning. (God certainly has a way of testing us pastors for us to see if we will listen to our own advice and follow our own teaching. I believe that this was one of many moments that the Lord has given me to do this.) The emotions of this loss were more raw than the last one. We found out about the first miscarriage the Tuesday before whereas this one was just two days prior. Along with the shock and disappointment still being processed, we had the painful weight of experiencing two miscarriages now within six months time. That's pretty heavy but not as heavy as some others have been called to bear. However, we followed my advice and we both were glad that we did. God used corporate worship that morning to help our hearts begin to heal and strengthen our faith in His goodness to us in spite of what we were experiencing.
Singing through "Oh, He's a Wonderful Savior" was so needed for me. While our status in a sense changed within a week, Jesus Christ remains our wonderful Savior. That hasn't changed with either one of these two great losses! He still went "to dark Calvary, dying our death on the tree," still "never leaves us alone" and "gently cares for His own." With an uncharacteristic quivering and almost breaking of my voice, I belted out the beautiful truth of "what a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear." All because of God's great grace, Jesus was still my friend and elder brother. We still had Him and He is enough to comfort us in our lowest moments; moments such as we were going through at the time. The message that morning reminded us that God loves us, not because of who we are or anything that we have done but because of Who He is. Oh, how I needed such a reminder that morning! God's giving and taking away was not a sign of the absence of His love for us but of His love for us. While I certainly don't understand or pretend to understand why God chose to allow us to get pregnant twice only to bear each child for about 5-7 weeks, I know that all that He does is in love for those He has both chosen and purchased to be His children in His Son.
You see, what I experienced in worship that morning was a blessed reminder of the very character of the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I said in a sermon not too terribly long ago that we need to not focus on our trials so much but instead focus more on the God of our trials if we want to handle them well. If we are to "let endurance have it's perfect work" as James commands us in light of the various types of trials God ordains for us to go through (1:4), then we need to think about God's character, His goodness, and mediate on the promises that He has given us in His Word. As the Casting Crowns' song puts it, "If your eyes are on the storm, you'll wonder if I love you still. But if your eyes are on the cross, you'll know that I always have and I always will." Had Laura and I stayed home that morning to grieve, we would have more likely kept our focus mostly on the loss and pain that we were experiencing but everything in the worship service would not let us do that. Instead, it moved us to "turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full into His wonderful face" and that's what helped us begin our healing. Being directed to Him constantly and consistently in corporate worship. Paul David Tripp has said it so well, "Corporate worship is designed to take your eyes off you and have them filled with the beauty of the grace and glory of God" and "Corporate worship is meant to take your eyes off the ugliness of the fallen world and open your eyes to the awesome beauty of your Redeemer."
Oh, and I can't close without mentioning another crucial element in corporate worship that morning that the Lord used to minister to our broken hearts. The love and support of our church family! The hugs, kind words, "I love yous," and prayers of those who really are brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers to us! Those whose lives we have been blessed to be a part of. Who we knew were grieving with us. That itself was a great encouragement which we would have missed had we just remained at home. We need each other far more than we realize and God has been so wise to place us into the body of His Son, the church. I'll never understand (trust me, I have heard the excuses) how many can neglect one of God's greatest means of grace and growth.
Let me encourage you, the next time that you are tempted to skip out on corporate worship on account of pain that you are going through (whether physical or emotional), to still come. You may not realize just how much you may need that time with God's people praising Him in the midst of your pain. How comforting it is to be directed away from the trial to the Savior. We needed that this past Sunday morning and will need it again next Sunday morning and the one following that and so on. Thank God for our weekly time together with the saints to worship Him. May we not take it for granted but participate fully each and every week!
Love in Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15
- I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.