By Holly Satterthwaite
She was kind of fragile / And she had a lot to grapple with / But basically she kept / It all inside
Yeah, I’m feeling kind of fragile / And I’ve got a lot to handle / But I guess this is my way / Of saying goodbye
(Twister, Mariah Carey)
There are some events that happen in life which hit us from out of nowhere and leave us grappling with questions that aren’t easily answered, and a grief that can’t easily be comforted. In December last year, my family and I experienced one such event.
My cousin committed suicide, requesting that the above song, Twister, be played at his funeral in an attempt to answer the question, ‘Why?’
The death of any loved one is always difficult, but dealing with the chosen death of a loved one who appeared to have rejected Jesus left me with two nagging questions:
(1) Where is comfort? and (2) What is the legacy of the lost?
(1) Where is comfort?
As Christians, we believe in a gospel of hope. A true, firm and certain hope realised by Jesus’ death on the cross, which opened the doors for all willing to have an eternally-fulfilling relationship with our Father God. The only way into this relationship, however, is through Jesus. How, then, do believers deal with the loss of those who didn’t profess a love of Christ during their lives?
Don’t expect a ‘magic’ answer here. I have found comfort, however, in the unchanging truth that God is good and He is just. Genesis 18:25 says “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” It is not my place to judge or decide these matters. Unlike God, my character doesn’t include perfect love, compassion, justice or mercy. Yet, because of God’s unchanging attributes, I can completely trust the issue of my cousin’s eternity into God’s wise hands.
Deuteronomy 29:29 says that “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Edith Schaeffer described these ‘secret things’ – the things we can’t fathom or understand – as the back of a tapestry. Whilst the front of a tapestry shows a beautifully woven pattern, the back is covered in tangles and knots which can’t be discerned and yet are vital to the pattern being realised. I may not fully understand the knots and tangles of life now, yet I can trust these into God’s hands and lean on the things that have been revealed.
We have a Saviour who knows us intimately, in part because He has already walked a life of loss and disappointment on earth. He has suffered much more than we ever will and yet He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
(2) What is the legacy of the lost?
When someone you love chooses to die, the common reaction from others is often, “What a waste.” Whilst certainly a waste in many ways, it needn’t be wasted or meaningless. I hope that the loss of my cousin will spur me to live more fruitfully and more sensitively, more alert to the often unseen, struggles of those around me. I want my life to reflect the Light of the World; to be like a town built on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14-16) so that all who are weary may see the hope that is available to them.
My cousin’s legacy is that he has shown me afresh how much I need the gospel and what an extraordinary gift God’s grace is.
I hope that one day I will discover that in his final moments he also accepted this gift, but in the meantime I am more grateful to and in love with Christ than ever.
In memory of James.