Monday, July 11, 2016

Funeral For a Friend

I attended a funeral this weekend for a friend I’d lost touch with some time ago. I’d met her when we were attending the same church. This was a church made up of several congregations that met in homes weekly, but met all together as a large group every couple of months. This friend (I’ll call her Joyce) and I had spent a lot of time together when our boys were younger, doing homeschool co-ops and such. Once the kids grew up though, our paths didn’t cross as much, and we lost touch. She’d moved away a couple of years ago but we had a mutual friend, and she and this other friend were still pretty close.

When I got the call that Joyce had passed away quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I was saddened. Her children are just entering adulthood, a time when they really need their mom. (Is there a time when we don’t need our moms?) And, selfishly, I was worried about the funeral. I would have to stand in the visitation line; stand in the lobby talking with people from that former church whom I hadn’t seen since leaving it under not-so-great circumstances; stand by the gravesite. I knew that all of this standing would be painful, and I knew that seeing my former church members might be awkward and difficult.

But wait. 

I had to ask myself, as I began to dread this event on many levels, does it really have to be difficult? The Lord can enable me to stand physically, and He can work in my heart to give me love for those brothers and sisters in Christ so that I can stand spiritually. I needed to change my attitude, so I began to pray that God would strengthen my ankle, knee and hip so that I could stand among these hurting people and be an encouragement to them. I also asked him to help me keep on forgiving those who had hurt me when we'd left the church (this has been an ongoing process), and to begin to mend some of these relationships, if that would be His will.

I was not disappointed. 

Once again, God demonstrated his faithfulness to me and answered both of these prayers, and then some. The first people I saw when we arrived were my friend’s two boys, now grown-up men, and my heart instantly wanted to mother them. They were happy to see me and my family, as was their broken-hearted dad, who greeted us warmly and said how he appreciated our being there. The funeral was…well, it was a funeral so there were many tears. Joyce’s mother was especially woeful, as she and her daughter had been estranged, and there would now be no repairing of that relationship. Throughout the hour of the service, the common theme seemed to be, “Repair your relationships now, because you don’t know how long you have.”  

God was working mightily throughout the day. Many of the ladies with whom I’d been close approached me tearfully, some expressing sorrow over our broken fellowship or a desire to rekindle the friendship. I know that these emotion-driven desires are often short-lived, but I was touched by the goodness of God in bringing a warmth to the conversations that I would not have imagined was possible.

Physically, God strengthened me amazingly! I was able to stand much longer than I normally can, both in the funeral home and by the gravesite. He provided places to perch briefly, giving me just enough rest between periods of standing. My leg felt strong, and I experienced minimal pain, even during the longest durations of standing. I was able to keep my focus on the grieving family and friends instead of my pain, and I was incredibly grateful throughout the day for His grace. I really hadn’t wanted to go to this funeral because of the things I wanted to avoid: Physical pain and the potential reopening of spiritual and emotional wounds. But the Lord taught me that avoidance is not the answer if I truly want to live my life to glorify God.

What are you avoiding today, friend? 

Are you fearful of what you will have to suffer if you don’t avoid it? If so, go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him for His help. Ask Him to help you manage the pain as you go. Ask Him to go before you and repair any breach that would be too wide for you to cross. Ask Him to go beside you, and help you with whatever you may encounter. He is faithful, and will answer your prayers. He loves you, and desires to give you everything that you need to fulfill the purpose of your life, which is to bring glory to His name. Don’t be afraid to go where He calls you to go. Don’t try to avoid something that seems to be too hard. Pray and trust that God knows your limits, and will enable you to do all to which He calls you!