This week has been an extremely draining week of ministry for me. As a pastor, you are supposed to be ready to pray, preach, and comfort those who are gripped by the aftermath of death. That’s really easier said than done. This week, I have spent time in the hospital visiting with a man from our church who is near death due to an infection that has overtaken his body. It’s a difficult thing to watch family members who are crushed by the power of illness and the looming threat of death.
Just yesterday, I found myself rushing down the road to comfort a lady named Barbara who is a member of our church. She received that dreaded phone call from someone in Tennessee informing her that her husband had collapsed while making a delivery. Apparently, his heart stopped beating and they were unable to revive him. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital. He was in his early 60’s and death was uninvited and completely unexpected.
Today, as I plan for the funeral of this man in our church and seek to comfort his widow – I am reminded that today is April 15th. It was this day 8 years ago that my best friend and fellow preacher of the gospel was suddenly taken by the grip of death in a car accident. He left behind his wife and unborn child in her womb. I still remember receiving that phone call from my pastor late at night to inform me. My wife and I rushed to her house to do the very thing that I found myself doing yesterday – seeking to comfort a new widow.
What do you say to a new widow? What comfort can you provide? As a pastor, I dread those moments. However, I have the promise of Scripture to share in times of sorrow and grief! As death overtakes our hearts, crumbles life’s plans, fills our minds with fear, and literally turns our lives upside down – we must turn to Christ for comfort and peace. He is the only genuine hope we can cling to in such dark and sorrow filled moments.Since the tragic day of April 15th 2003, I have watched the “hidden smile” of God appear in the lives of Kerri and her daughter Libby after William’s death. William Cowper wrote about that by saying “Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” I am quite certain that God has hidden a wonderful smiling face behind this bitter providence in the life of Barbara – the lady who found out her husband died yesterday. However, at this very moment – the only thing she continues to see is the looming clouds of death’s darkness.
When Kerri experienced her tragedy – no words of man were good enough to bring comfort. It is the peace of God that passes all understanding that is capable of bringing true hope in the midst of such deep pain. How can a widow, a son, a daughter, or a friend find comfort in death? It’s only possible to find true hope in the death of Christ!
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Because of our sin, we all deserve to perish – to experience the second death (Revelation 21:8). However, it is only through the brutal death of Jesus Christ that we have been reconciled to God the Father. The blood of Jesus Christ has literally covered the sin of every person who has faith in Christ. Therefore, the penalty of sin is paid, the judgment of God is averted, and the condemnation of God upon our guilty lives has been reversed. It was all accomplished through death – the death of the cross – the death of Jesus Christ!
A man named Horatio G. Spafford once received troubling news about his family. It was in the days prior to modern text messaging and cell phones. He received a tragic telegram that informed him of the death of his daughters at sea. They had been traveling with their mother by ship across the sea when their ship collided with another vessel. The only one who survived was his wife. His four daughters died that day. It was unexpected and extremely bitter news. This hymn writer was shaken by the tragedy but moved with the foundational truths of God’s grace to write a hymn. The words are famous and we sing them often in our worship services.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like the sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well with my soul.’
Tho’ Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious tho’t!— My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll, The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, ‘Even so,’ it is well with my soul.
Chorus: It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul
How can we find hope and comfort in the midst of death? We can run to Jesus and find absolute hope and comfort in the death of Jesus Christ! He didn’t die just any death. He died the humiliating death of the cross. He died the excruciating death of the Roman execution system. He died as the perfect sinless lamb of God who takes away our sin. As Horatio G. Spafford put it – “My sin-oh, the bliss of this glorious thou’t!- My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
The true Christian finds hope in the fact that Jesus’ death has defeated our death. If you are not a Christian – there is hope. Hope doesn’t exist in the world – but it does exist in Christ. Turn to Jesus and He will take away your sin and your sorrow.Today my heart is full of sorrow and I really miss Stephen. I still miss William. However, due to God’s sovereignty over death – I have absolute hope of a reunion that will take place in Heaven because of the finished work of Jesus’ death. Until we meet again – It is well with my soul.
Pastor Josh Buice