I recently attended two funerals in 8 days. The back to back funerals couldn’t have been more different. The first was for an 87 year-old aunt who lived a full life and was adored by her family. She never missed a family gathering and had an adventurous spirit right to the end. Who else, at 85 and requiring oxygen, would travel to Ireland to see her grandson, his wife, and her great-grandchildren? This funeral was perhaps the best celebration of life I have been to.
The second was for a 23 year-old veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and was also loved and admired by his family. The end of this life was not only unexpected, but tragic as well. This young man had so much potential and life ahead of him. It was cut short because he bought into the lie that he had to get himself out of the dark place that overcame him as a result of what he had seen and been asked to do in Afghanistan. When he saw no way out, he did the only thing he could think of and took his own life.
What makes this second funeral so tragic is that help was available had this vet only asked. Parents, friends, and veteran support groups would have gone out of their way to ensure he could see his way to better days.
The contrast between the two funerals could hardly be greater. Both my aunt and the veteran were believers who, I believe, are reveling in Jesus’ presence. Yet, the difference in their funerals provides some lessons we would do well to heed.
Satan would have us believe some of the things we have done or experienced are unique to us. He wants us to think no one else will understand. This is a lie. There is absolutely nothing that any of us have experienced that someone else has not also been through.
When we believe no one else has had a similar experience we are often overcome with guilt and shame. This can then lead to believing we have to find our own way, rely solely on our own ability to figure things out.
Ask For Help
The only person who has ever walked the earth and had all the answers was Jesus. Every other person has lacked knowledge of one kind or another. Every one. That means we all need help at one time or another. And there is nothing wrong with asking for help.
Another lie is that we shouldn’t need to ask for help. We should be able to figure things out on our own. It shows weakness to have to ask for help. Nothing could be further from the truth. It shows strength of character to know when we need help, when our own resources are not adequate to meet our own needs.
People are ready and willing to help. We often need to take the first step and ask.
God never intended us to live in isolation. In fact, He created us to live in the community of other people. We don’t have to read very far into the creation story to hear God declare that it is not good for the man He had just created to be alone. Woman becomes man’s companion. (Gen. 2.18-25)
Ecclesiastes speaks to this truth:
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecc. 4.9-10)
Both my aunt and the veteran went out of their way to love and build up others. They never missed an opportunity to share a word of encouragement or offer a helping hand.
God, at His very essence, is love. Each of us bear His image and therefore carry His love. Great joy can be found in sharing His love with those around us.
These four lessons learned as a result of death will serve us well in life.