When love is obvious

Imagine doing a funeral for a car load of teenagers killed in a drunken highway accident. Or for someone murdered by a member of his own family. Or for a child who died because of a wrong diagnosis by a doctor. Or for the person “everyone loved.”

What would you say at these funerals if you were the minister? How do you get people through such tragedies?

I was given a hint by a Funeral Director. “It’s by obvious love,” he said. “There’s nothing like it for helping people through tragedy and suffering. When people realize you’re in their suffering with them, feeling their feelings, understanding the turmoil they’re going through, voicing their questions, their confusion and even their anger, and you take whatever time they need to talk – it’s like a light goes on in their minds that someone understands and cares, and that’s what gets them through. I’ve seen it time and time again. It’s remarkable.”

Well, isn’t that exactly what God does with us, I thought? He voices our questions, confusion and anger too, in the Psalms and Job. He also understands our suffering and turmoil, having lived as one of us – and he listens and doesn’t interrupt when we need to talk, as well. All the practical help we need as humans to keep us going in a rough world, he provides.

Why? Because when love is obvious, that’s what gets us through. We are “rooted and established in love,” Paul writes in Ephesians 3:17. What grounds us through all the knocks and tragedies of life is love, that deep sense of knowing we’re understood, loved and cared for. So God makes sure we know we’re loved by giving us a constant shot of his love “through his Spirit in our inner being,” verse 16, so that we “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” verse 18. We’ll know we’re loved, because the Spirit makes it obvious.

I wondered what the effect of this would be on children. They live in a rough world. School isn’t the most pleasant place nowadays, with its constant hassles and bullying. Life at home can be stressful too, and a child under pressure and high expectations can quickly become depressed, uncooperative and insolent.

But when love is obvious, what happens then? What happens to a child’s attitude and personality when it’s made obvious that he, or she, is loved? What happens when a child is rooted and established in love and not in expectations? What happens when a child is loved like God loves us? Could the change in that child be just as remarkable too?

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