My grandfather was not in the business of accumulating.
For years he had chided us if we had bought him even the smallest of presents. Yet, out of the small pension he’d earned in the Belfast aircraft factories, he continued to send cheques in the post for our birthdays. He was a man that had no intention of dying with clenched fists.
He lived life with his hands open and at the end they were empty.
In the month since I stood at the foot of his coffin I’ve been reminded of God’s words to those that mourn, ache and weep.
I’ve been reminded that vain and naive attempts to present happy endings and instant healings while ignoring that we live in a world steeped in grief have no place in God’s narrative.
In place of commands to dry our tears, I see promises that He acknowledges our suffering and weeping, and gathers every single one of our tears in a bottle (Psalm 6 & 56).
I see stories that He sees us in our suffering, of Jesus visiting rural towns that were well away from the main road so that he could be with a distraught mother at the funeral of her child (Luke 7).
I see stories that He cares for us in our suffering, that Jesus is not ashamed of our weeping, but instead paradoxically calls us blessed because of it (Luke 6).
I see stories of a hope that despite my grief, doubt and disappointment that woven into the pages there is a story of a man, who generously gave His life so that our present suffering will one day turn to shouts of joy (John 16). He too had no intention of dying with clenched fists. Jesus’ hands are open and on the cross they were empty.
I see assurance that while God does not promise protection from suffering, he is with us in it (Psalm 23)...and that hope makes all the difference in the world.