The last few weeks have seen a number in our communities lose loved ones, sometimes in the most unexpected and painful circumstances. I have found myself standing awkwardly, unable to offer any meaningful words to those in grief. I suspect the truth is that in these moments, there are no words that can be said; there will be pain and it simply has to be endured. Each of us reacts differently; at least, those were the wisest words that were said to me when I suffered a bereavement a few years ago.
I am sometimes asked as a vicar how I cope; does it make it easier that I believe in Heaven? I am not sure that does help me. I believe that God’s love for us does not cease at death. But exactly how that works out is not something I know, or indeed care much about; in the life of faith, there are some questions we simply have to leave for God. I do draw strength from the most detailed picture we have in the Bible of death and grief; the account of Jesus visiting the house of his friends Martha and Mary, still raw from having buried their brother Lazarus three days before. Jesus knows their grief; he weeps. If you want to know what the phrase “God with us” really means, look no further; God shares in the deepest human pain. And, perhaps as a promise to us that love is really stronger than death, Jesus orders, Lazarus from his tomb. And Lazarus cannot ignore the command of love; he rises. So if you want to know what the word “hope” means, look no further; somehow in this story we see that the God of life prevails.