When We Are Asked to Speak….

This morning I received an email from a friend who will be conducting a graveside service for premature twins who died hours after their delivery. They were only 24 weeks into their term. He asked my advice.

I struggled with what to say. What would I say at such a graveside service? I have spoken on several occasions in similar circumstances. But deciding what to say when I would rather just be silent is very difficult. But the family has asked that something be said. So, as a gift to the family, I speak.

I thought I might just lament. That is what I feel like doing. There are times when we are “too troubled to speak” and we “refuse to be comforted,” when we question where the love God is and wonder why he has forgotten us (Psalm 77). I could have advised words to that effect and I almost did.

But at the graveside we also need hope. Lament and hope are not mutually exclusive. I feel both often, sometimes one more than the other. Burying infant twins is a time for lament, a time to mourn. I want to protest the grave with lament; I want to rail against God’s seeming failure to deliver.

But at the graveside I also want to triumph over the grave with hope. The grave evokes tears as we remember our loss, and it should. The grave also looks so permanent. It is a dreary place with permanent headstones. Consequently, at the grave I want to declare the hope, to rebel against death. This is not the end of the story! I want to scream, “This is not over!” Our hope–our expection, the promise of God–is that God will create a new earth where there are no more graves or gravestones. The whole creation will be at peace (the lion and the lamb) and creation will no longer hurt itself or others.

This is the hope that Isaiah 65:17-25 proclaims. After the devastation of the exile, the loss of life, the loss of everything, the prophet promises that God will create a new heavens and new earth. It will be a place where “never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days” or women “bear children doomed to misfortune.” “Never again” is a refrain that I relish in that text. It fills my heart with such resolve, a hatred for death and a longing–a groaning–for the new creation where God will wipe away all tears and death will be no more (Rev 21:1-4).

God will not let this stand! So, God, bring it on!



5 Responses to “When We Are Asked to Speak….”

  1.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    I have preached at a funeral for a child who died. I focused on John 11, as the incarnate God, Jesus weeps with us for the loss of life but is also the resurrection that offers the promises that the final answer in life will not be death but instead is life (hope).

    Nevertheless, I know from experience that words do not comfort as much as we wish they would.

    Rex

  2. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    John 11 is a wonderful text for the mixture of lament and hope. Thanks for the reminder, Rex.

  3.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    Hey Bro. Hicks,

    When you have time read the lastest post on my blog. It discusses my plans for a book I am trying to wright on hope and suffering. This is new experience and your personal and professional advise would be welcomed.

    Rex

  4.   RICH CONSTANT Says:

    This morning I received an email from a friend who will be conducting a graveside service for premature twins who died hours after their delivery. They were only 24 weeks into their term. He asked my advice.

    wisdom.
    john mark, brother’s know where to find that.
    and are blessed by your …
    any words are lacking for me to express your journey.
    and those that tread along that trail of greif

    rich

  5.   Jim Martin Says:

    John Mark,

    As I read your words I thought about some of the many, many funerals that I have been a part of. In this post you vocalize what is on the hearts of many, many people who have sat under a funeral home tent, trying to make “sense” of it all.

    Thanks for putting these feelings into words.

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