The Only Word of Hope

Last night, we drove back from Florence, Alabama, after the funeral of a very good friend, Terry Austin.  Terry died, very unexpectedly, on Saturday in a Birmingham hospital.  While news of his death was a surprise, he had struggled with many health issues after several surgeries within the past six months.

Terry and Cindy are wonderful friends and have been a special part of our lives for many years.  When you are laughing with a friend or enjoying a meal together, you never think of one day doing that friend’s funeral.  Or at least, I never had those thoughts.  Yet, at 11:00 AM on Tuesday morning in the church where Terry grew up, I sat with a church full of sad, stunned people who had come to his funeral.   

When I stood to speak, I experienced the same feelings I have experienced many times at funerals — only this time it was much more intense.  There is something about looking at a family at a funeral that leaves me feeling so helpless.  The father in me wants to hug the children who are mourning and somehow make it all go away.  I want to look a grieving wife (or husband) in the eye and tell her that this horrible situation can be fixed and that this nightmare will be over.  Yet, those are not realities.  So, I stand there feeling helpless and feeling the grief of having lost a very good friend.

The only encouraging word I know to speak on a day like this is a Gospel word — to be reminded that Jesus has tasted the ultimate death for us so that the final word about our existence is not a funeral word but a Gospel word.  In the middle of our helplessness, there is a word from God that there will come a day when we will be reunited with family, friends, and others who throughout the ages have experienced the sweet mercy of Jesus and who have found their identity in him.

Now that is a word of hope. 

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13 thoughts on “The Only Word of Hope

  1. Jim, I’m sorry to hear of your loss.  And not to argue with your point of hope, I think that’s true.  But also, I think one of the most powerful statements of hope that we have in moments of loss is that God is present to us.  He has not forsaken, he is in the midst of the pain with us, as he knows what it is to feel loss and intense suffering.  There’s something about a God like that that gives me hope; he’s not somewhere distant waiting for me to "get over it" but he is right with me, crying because this is not the way he created life to be initially.  What an intimate God we serve. 

  2. Jen,Well said and of course you are exactly right.  I probably should have said something about the present ministry of Jesus. Not only has been present but will be faithful and remain present in our lives through the toughest losses. He continues to be present even when we are faced with the stark absence of special people in our lives.Thanks for your help. 

    "the final word about our existence is not a funeral word but a Gospel word."  
    Very beautiful!  That sums it up very well for me, and I believe for Cindy and the rest of the family, too.  Sometimes about all we can do is show up for times like these and let God work through us in the way that only He can.  Whatever that turns out to be.  May God bless you.  You have been a very good friend to that family, Jim.

  4. May God be the family of your beloved friend. May God give you rest and peace as you wind down the week. Thanks for sharing this out of your pain, enabling us all to reflect on the power of the open and empty tomb. -bill

  5. I know what it’s like to bury a very good friend. More than a few times. I want you to know, though, that I have to do a graveside tomorrow for a man I never met. His family was not close to him but they wanted a preacher to do the funeral. I’ve struggled all week with this and then I read your blog and you gave me just the angle I was seeking! Thanks, Jim. Sometimes I "like" being the funeral director far more than being the preacher.

  6. Jim, I have never been in your situation right now, but I am sorry for your loss and blessed that you can remind us during this time of the faithful work of Jesus for us, in the end and the present, may the Lord give you the Grace to grieve well. Blessings Liam

  7. Connie,Thanks.  What you said is very important.  There is something very important about just showing up at times like this and trusting that God is present as well and is at work in some way.  Thanks. 

  8. Greg–Thanks.  So glad that in some way this was helpful with the situation you are facing today.Bill–Thank you very much for these very meaningful and thoughtful words.Ryan–Thanks very much.  I hope you will comment again sometime.Liam–Thank you.  I really like that phrase–"…the Grace to grieve well."

  9. Jim, I’m so sorry to hear about Terry’s death.  I am thankful that you could be there for the entire Florence family, and especially Cindy.  I pray God’s strength and comfort for her and her children.

  10. Hi Jim,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.  I cannot imagine how difficult it was for you to speak at Terry’s funeral.   My heart has ached for the Austin family and for those friends who are closest to them.  I wish I could have been there in person, but was there in spirit.  I keep remembering, in spite of the pain, that we are all trying to get where – I believe – Terry is now.  We are only here on this earth for a short time.  May God continue to bless you, Charlotte and your family and give you a peace that only He can. 

  11. Julie,Good to hear from you.  Yes, that was a difficult time and must continue to be for the Austin family.  Thanks for this kind note.  Hope you are doing well.