Last week Chad’s dad died. It was sudden and is still quite sad.
I’ve been thinking about what we say to families when a person close to them dies. As a pastor, or in my case a pastor in training, it is hard to feel prepared about what to say to a grieving family.
What do you say? What don’t you say? What if they never believed in God? What if they never got the chance to know God?
I am comforted by the fact that we have no clue what God does in these situations. He might welcome them back to his loving arms and say, “Welcome home my son.” Or he may not. I don’t know what God does in situations where the person was not a believer. Maybe he gives them another chance. Maybe not. I try not to dwell on this mystery because if there is no second chance in death that makes me sad and if there is that it makes me joyful. So I leave this alone. Mainly because my postulation on the subject will bring no comfort to families where faith is in question. I think about it in my down times but try not to bring it up when talking with someone whose family member or friend has just died.
There are many other questions in death. Why this person? Non-believers and believers alike often question God. They often get mad and ask why a God of everything would be so cruel. I have no answers. I have no clue why this person lives and that person dies.
I like to think of God as the all-knowing comforter. When God takes children with cancer I often like to think that he took them before they suffered but sometimes that isn’t true. I like to think that when ever God takes his children home, young or old, he does so for their own benefit. But I really don’t know and I never share this idea with the person who is grieving.
The parent of said child will not be comforted by my ideas. I seriously doubt that Chad can be comforted at this time by my theology of God taking his dad now so that he would no longer suffer the effects of the cancer. This idea of mine will bring no comfort.
The only thing I can say in times where death is unexpected is: that sucks! I can say it sucks. I can say it makes no sense. My own mother had her dad taken from her at a young age and all I can say is that sucks. I’m sorry. I’m sorry Chad is experiencing this loss. I’m sorry friends and family members are having to go on without a parent, grandparent, and friend. That sucks.
As a pastor in training I still have no idea what to say when death comes unexpectedly, not that it gets any easier when death is imminent. There is nothing to say.
My theology, my philosophy will bring no comfort to those grieving. It may bring me comfort but it will do nothing for the person who is grieving.
So I stay quiet and say instead that sucks and I’m sorry.
I’m sorry Chad that your dad died. I’m sorry that you are grieving and even though I haven’t met you yet all I want to do is give you a big hug and hold you while you cry. That’s all I can do. I know it sucks and there is nothing I can say to bring you comfort so I would like to shut up and give you a hug because I like to think God holds us when we cry so I try to do that for the people I love and I love you because you love my sister.