Mourn With Those Who Mourn
One of the greatest things (thus far) to come from my mother's death has been the opportunities I've had to speak with people who are experiencing similar pain. In the course of a brief few weeks, I've had two dear sisters lose their fathers to sudden, untimely death.
The difference between sympathy and empathy is vast. As Christians, we are called to mourn with those who mourn, and to offer them the comfort of Christ. However, few things are as jading as being told "I know what you're going through" when the person, in fact does not. (I don't want to hear about your friend who went through this!) However, few things are more helpful then that friend who kindly, lovingly, maybe even tearfully, reminds me of who I am in Christ and what Christ has done for me.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many." (2 Corinthians 1:3-11 ESV)
The experience of Paul and his team led them to "an inch from despair" but ultimately, it led them to Christ. Yet, still - their hope persisted in Christ. In general, 2 Corinthians is an incredible resource for those who are suffering. Paul writes later:
"Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:13-18 ESV)
One of the sobering, yet sanctifying things about losing someone you love is that it points you in a stark, blunted way to the reality that this world is not our final existence, that this world is transitory. There is indeed more glory coming. May God give us grace to let go of everything he takes from us, knowing that he has given us hope in Christ, yes, but also knowing that the sufferings of this present world aren't worth comparing to the joys that await us in heaven. For me and my two dear sisters, I rejoice that one of those joys will include being reunited with our parents. Come, Lord Jesus.