I had concluded the funeral service, and he just sat there staring into space. His wife and children gathered around him desperately trying to lend their support. He must have been in his early 50s, and he was totally distraught over the death of his mother.

Literally, he was held captive by grief. Finally, he managed to walk with his wife out into the cemetery. After a few moments I eased up behind him and put my hand on his shoulder. Amid his sobbing, he asked, “Why did God take my mama? She loved life. I don’t like God.”

I replied, “I really don’t have an answer to your question. But I do believe that God is in this with you because of God’s love as expressed in his own son’s death at the cross. And God understands your anger, and it’s all right.”

“Why did God take my mama?” Specifically, in this article, I want to focus on the important matter of grief, grief reaction and grace.

It’s a sober subject, of course, and yet as Tennyson, the British poet, put it, “Never morning wore to evening, but some heart did break.”

So, in looking for some light upon our darkness, let us consider some familiar words of Jesus: “In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer (courage), I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33). I believe Jesus is suggesting several things that can help us.

Initially, we are being told that death is an equal opportunity employer, and we must accept it. To be sure, there are many forms of grief. As the late Dr. Wayne Oates, one of America’s best known and most trusted counselors, observed, “Grief is the aftermath of any deeply significant loss.”

But here we are dealing with the ultimate grief. The telephone rings or someone comes. The message is the same. Someone we love dearly is dead. Being a common experience, some form of this message comes to all of us at some time or other.

Writing in her book “Where the Wind Begins,” Paula D’Arcy, who lost her husband and child in a traffic accident, states that “within deep joy is also the possibility of deep sorrow. And only fools, those who fool themselves, think they can open their arms and embrace one without the other. They cannot be separated.”

Next, we are told that in spite of everything we can be of good cheer.

Now we know something about suffering and sadness and grief and tribulation. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes on and says this other thing: “But be of good cheer (courage), I have overcome the world.”

How could Jesus say that? The answer is found in the preceding verse. “Yet,” says Jesus, “I am not alone, for the Father is with me,” (John 16:32).

So where can we go to find the strength we need to face life, death and grief? We cannot find the strength we need by looking back at the sorrows of the past and asking why. Job didn’t find the answer there. Job found the answer in the whirlwind when he was encountered by God. Job simply did not fathom the mystery of why things happen, but he could sense God’s presence through all his experiences.

After minister John Claypool lost his young daughter to leukemia, a friend asked him if God really made a difference at a time like this.

Dr. Claypool responded, “Not with soaring ecstasy or energetic activism, but with quiet endurance.”

Lastly, we are encouraged to be practical in some of the ways we can deal with grief. We do these things in the full knowledge and faith of the One who said, “Be of good cheer (courage), I have overcome the world.”

1) We can remember the resurrection.

2) We can refrain from brooding lest it master us.

3) We can keep tending to our spiritual disciplines.

4) We can stay involved in fellowship with others.

5) We can take some definite course of action.

6) We can trust God.

I once preached a children’s sermon where I put a stick figure of a man in the palm of my hand. Then closing my hand, I asked the children if they could open it. They couldn’t. The point was that we are all safe in the Father’s hand, both in this life and the life to come. No forces can pull us out. The basis of all true confidence is the Father’s hand. It’s no wonder we can be of good cheer (courage).

The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.

Stay Informed