Chappy’s corner “In His Hands”

Ole was dying when he smelled Lena’s famous chocolate chip cookies baking. Ole thought if I could eat one of those cookies I would die a happy man. Ole called out to Lena, but she didn’t answer. So Ole struggled out of bed and crawled to the kitchen. There he saw some cookies and reached for one. At that moment Lena slapped his hand and said, “You can’t have those cookies. They’re for the funeral”

In the last two weeks I have conducted three funerals. None of them were for Ole, but two funerals were for veterans. The third funeral was for a twenty one year old girl who died of cancer. No funeral is easy for those involved, but it is especially hard when it involves a young person. We tend to find death easier to handle if the person is elderly and has been suffering, but the pain of losing a loved one still hurts. It especially hurts when one sees parents burying their child. Two of the funerals involved parents sitting there staring at their child’s casket and I can’t imagine what grief they are experiencing.

In our minds children are to outlive their parents, but sadly that doesn’t always happen. An accident or an act of violence or a rare disease can lead to death and suddenly every dream one has for one’s child is gone and one is left wondering “why?” But we don’t always have a direct answer to that question. However if one searches the scriptures one discovers that this is not a perfect world but a sinful world filled with suffering, sickness and that sting of death. Sometimes those “bad” things happen to the ones we love including our children and we may never know why, but we do know where we can turn to for help.

For the funeral of that twenty one year old girl I shared this story. Long ago when my own child was hospitalized an elderly pastor told me, “Why does God let this happen to the young ones?” Then he reminded me of the painting of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. In that painting Jesus is holding a small lamb while other sheep are surrounding him. The pastor said, “Which one of those sheep is the mother to the lamb?” His answer was, “The one with its head turned looking at Jesus.” The pastor’s point is simply this: when trouble strikes we have only one to look to for help and that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He is the only one who can give us hope in the face of suffering and death. Christ conquered sin by his death on the cross and by his resurrection he removed the sting of death for us. As the psalmist said, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” (Psalm23) Jesus the light of the world turned the darkness of death into a shadow. A shadow can be scary, but it can’t hurt us, and so death may be scary but with Christ we have a victory over death.

That was the message I shared in all these funerals, but especially with those who had lost their daughter. I’m not sure if that story helped the family or not, but the point for all of us is that when we face suffering, or sickness, or that sting of death, we need to reach out to the one who doesn’t slap our hands, but instead reaches out to us and takes us by the hand and promises never to let go of us as we journey through those difficult days.

That’s just my thoughts from this sunny SE corner of South Dakota.

CH (COL) David Gunderson