[This message was shared today at the funeral for a young woman and mother of three whose death came suddenly.]
Romans 8:31, 37-39
For all who knew and loved Kelsey, this is an unimaginably hard time. All of you, especially Kelsey’s children, are in my prayers for the days ahead. Her mother and grandmother have both told me about how Kelsey struggled in this life to find herself, to find her place. Her Facebook page confirms that. In the introduction there, she wrote: “God is life. My [babies] make it worth living.” In what little I know of Kelsey, I hear the story of a young woman who adored her three children, even as she yearned, in her own way, for both God and for some happiness in her life.
In the days, months, and years ahead, you who grieve will struggle. And you will yearn to see Kelsey. It would be unnatural for you not to grieve, even wrong. And it would be abnormal for you not to want to see her. You will also have struggles.
I’ve followed the Lord, sometimes well, sometimes poorly, for more than forty years. In that time, I’ve tried to pay close attention to His Word. Despite these things, let me begin today by telling you what I don’t know: I don’t know why this has happened.
But let me also tell you what I do know: God didn’t cause this. We live in an imperfect world in which people get hurt, desperate, and lost. That's what happened to Kelsey.
But there is hope!
That’s why today, I want to share four promises from God that you can hold onto for strength and encouragement as you face the future.
The first is this: The God we meet and can know in Jesus Christ understands all about our struggles, our griefs, and burdens. He understands what you’re going through and what you will be going through in the days and years ahead better than anyone else possibly could.
The Bible says of Jesus that He was: “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus, God in human flesh, is God’s guarantee that whatever pain, grief, or challenge you confront in life, God gets it.
He understands your grief not as some far-off observer, but as One Who has been exactly where You are today. If you will turn daily to Jesus, bringing to Him your pain, your unanswered questions, your grief, and even your sin, He will understand. He will give you strength. He will give you peace, forgiveness, and hope.
Jesus once said; “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) That promise is for you today and for the days ahead.
Here’s another important promise from God: When you don’t know what to do, this God we know in Jesus can lead you in the right direction. In the passage I read a few moments ago, from Psalm 23, the psalmist writes “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:1-3) When, in our grief, we turn to Jesus, He will lead us.
Here’s another promise I hope that you’ll hold onto today: Nothing can separate you from God. If you will fall into His loving arms, He can carry you through the grief and whatever else you face in life. I know this from first-hand experience.
In the New Testament book of Romans, we’re told: “...neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Reach out for the God we know in Jesus. As long as you want Him in your life, He will never let you go! Never.
And there’s a fourth promise from God that I want to share with you this evening. No matter how many times we break down...no matter how many times we fail...we have a promise that cannot be taken away from those who trust in the Lord. Jesus shared it late one night with a man who came to Him looking for answers. This is what Jesus told them: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Jesus went to the cross to take onto His shoulders all the pain, death, sin, and darkness that meet us in this world. He voluntarily accepted the defeat handed out to us by these things so that, in sharing them, He could lead us out of our slavery to them and into new life.
When Jesus rose from the dead on the first Easter Sunday, He was making it possible for all who surrender to Him to have eternal life with God.
That life breaks into this world when we trust in Jesus and rely on Him to take us through this life.
And one day, all who have trusted in Him--believed in Him--will live in His perfect kingdom where, as we live in God’s direct presence, pain and death will be banished, all our tears will be dried, our grief will be no more, and we will know that one thing for which Kelsey always yearned: perfect peace with God...with ourselves, with others.
May these four promises from the God we know in Jesus--that He will always understand us; that He will lead us when we turn to Him; that nothing can separate us from His love given to us through Jesus; and that He will give eternity to those who dare to believe in Jesus--give you strength, encouragement, peace, and HOPE in the days and years ahead. God bless you. Amen
[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]