Yesterday I had the rich privilege of witnessing a remarkable funeral celebration filled with sorrow and joy for a 10 week old precious little baby whose parents serve as “Life Group” leaders for our daughter and son-in-law. The transparency of raw grief tightly woven together with profound faith will long be remembered. The message, delivered with grace and skill, tackled the difficulty of suffering in the ‘Drama of dramas,’ the book of Job. Personal, caring, engaging thought-provoking gospel application arising out of the text and well illustrated with anecdotes from the journey of a difficult pregnancy, a joy-filled delivery and the last 10 weeks of extensive intensive care in a Children’s hospital in Pennsylvania.
Running through the service was the element of ‘hope.’ Those who know Jesus Christ “sorrow not as others” – They sorrow, fully and unmistakeably, but their sorrow is mingled with the hope that only God provides. That’s the heart of the gospel, isn’t it? Christ’s death, burial and resurrection and conquest of death and God’s ultimate plan of making ‘all things new’ provide more than ample food for meditative appetites.
In 1 Peter 3, Peter, in the context of bearing up under difficult suffering, assures Christ-followers of blessing. “…But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.'” Citing Isaiah 8:12, Peter cites the LORD’s admonition to Isaiah that he, as an 8th century B.C. prophet demonstrate through his handling of real life situations a remarkable difference from the rest of the people among whom he lived.
The honest, God-exalting, raw grief was evident but as I listened there was something radically amazing. Noone was denying the sorrow, but ‘hope-filled’ testimonies arising from ‘truth-filled’ lives demonstrated a 21st century living testimony of the power of God’s grace.
Peter urged the 1st century followers – “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak mailiciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”