In Dad’s Words: Grace Sufficient for the Grieving

graceI picked up one of Dad’s sermon notebooks today and my eyes fell on some of the words he shared at the funeral of a parishioner. My mind, of course, retraced the steps back that time and place over two decades ago – a journey now marked by the loss of Dad’s passing. The sermons in this notebook include a full outline exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Almost all of the sermons in this particular notebook are handwritten – often with bold blue ink and red underlining, stunningly neat (not his usual scrawl) and thoughtfully presented in outline form. For this occasion, he deviated from his typical pattern to write manuscript some of what he wanted to share that day. I read these words today and thanked God that they are true when they were first shared and they are true today. I’ve found God’s grace sufficient for me on my own journey and I share these words hoping they might again console another soul. He begins with a poem by H. S. Rice, The Bend in the Road. 

When we feel we have nothing left to give,
    And we are sure that the song has ended;
When our day seems over and the shadows fall,
    And the darkness of night has descended;
Where can we go to find strength
    To valiantly keep on trying?
Where can we find the hand that will dry
    The tears that the heart is crying?
There’s but one place to go; and that is to God
    And dropping all pretense and pride
We can pour out our problems without restraint
    And gain strength with Him at our side.
 And together we stand at life’s crossroads
    And view what we think is the end
But God has a much bigger vision–
    And He tells us it’s only a bend.
So rest and have faith and grow stronger
    Let go and God share your load
Your work is not finished or ended
   You’ve just come to a bend in the road. (by H.S. Rice)

The words of this poem very aptly portray the picture in which we find ourselves today. We’ve lost a loving husband, a proud father, a doting grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a friend. Some of our number sense the loss much more keenly than others, yet we all feel the pain, the sorrow, and the emptiness with the passing of one whom we all loved.

It would be easy for us to think and feel as if this were “the end of the road.” Instead, we discover that we are merely at a curve on the journey of life.

From now on, each of us will have a different outlook on life. For those who knew and loved _______________, life will never be the same again. At every turn we will find daily reminders– the empty chair, the pictures, the handiwork, the birthday, the family gathering– each of these will be reminders of the loved one we have lost. But this is not the end of the road! Rather it is the start of a new part of our life. We round the corner only to find the road stretching out before us once more.

In the days that lie ahead of us, we must all–some sooner than others– return to the duties which fall our lot. For this, there is a source of strength upon which to draw. The Psalmist declares: “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” and “the Lord is my strength of my life.” (Ps. 46:1, 27:1) To this fountain of strength each of us may go when we are weak–either in body or in spirit. And we WILL be weak, perhaps often, as we face the next days and weeks. If you are willing, God will grant you sustaining grace and help for the most difficult trial.

Grief is a process that will not end with this service. You may ask yourself, “What will happen to me?” “Why can’t I get hold of myself?” “When will I heal?” “When will I be whole again?” There are no timetables. But time will pass. You will find that the sun still comes up. And God will be with you.

The Apostle Paul shared with us the comforting words of God to him: “My GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEE!” There is an abundant supply, not only for the most needy, but for all of us.

In the lonely hours – His grace is sufficient for you.
On the most sorrowful occasion – His grace is sufficient.
When you can bear the heartache no more – His grace is sufficient.
God will be YOUR help in time of need.
(After a song and Scripture reading, his notes for a brief homily continue in more typical form) 

Today I want to draw your attention to 2 scriptural word pictures of God. Tragic circumstances sometimes distort our view of God. Let’s look in to these Scriptures to catch a realistic view of Him.

I. He is a Gentle Shepherd. (Psalm 23)
A. provides for physical needs
B. protects from harm and danger
C. proves to be a source of wisdom and direction (He leadeth me.)
II. He is a loving Father (Ps 68, 103)
A. Lays aside self-interest
B. Listens with genuine concern
C. Loves with unfailing compassion
In our sorrow let’s keep a clear view of God!

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