Today I had the privilege to officiate the Celebration of Life memorial service for a family in our community. These services are never easy as you speak to the broken hearts of family and friends of the loved one who is no longer with them. I actually love officiating them because it is an opportunity for us to help bring a modicum of peace and comfort to the families in their time of grief and sorrow. And it is a time when I can bring them hope!
God always aligns things so perfectly for His own purpose. This day was no exception. The family had picked an Old and a New Testament scripture for me to read during the service. I had the scriptures that I liked to prepare a message from already set and these were not them. Yet, the more I read the Old Testament scripture the more I felt this was what God wanted me to speak to. And the New Testament scripture then wove in so seamlessly that before I knew it I was using both.
During the tributes, one of the granddaughters read a poem she wrote to her grandmother that perfectly aligned with my call that we need to make a choice to lament with hope or despair.
When I gave the message, I relayed to them that as travelers on the road of life, we will be faced with many twist and turns and detours and side streets...premature, unforeseen death among them. But God is there to help us to climb out of the valley of grief and give us the strength to climb the mountain to Him. Our help in all circumstances comes from Him. Our burdens are carried by Jesus who promises to prepare and have ready a place for us when our life on earth is done. The Psalmist from the OT passage declared that God will keep us forevermore.
We have been given lament in order to help us work our way through the process of grief and sorrow. But how we lament is the key to it all. We can ditch despair and live into hope through the realization that God is with us, He promises us that, and that we do not face the pain alone, whether in life, death or life beyond death.
We are assured that we are welcomed with the open and loving arms of the God who has been with us since before our birth, the God who walks with us during our lives, the God who loves and accepts us unconditionally, and the God who has prepared a place for us to welcome us home.
There is comfort there. There is promise. And there is hope!
"Lament with all hope,
Lean into burdens lifted,
Where our help comes from."