I have just spent a fairly sleepless night wrestling, once more, with difficult questions. Dear friends are 'going through the mill' at the moment - there has been a veritable spate of bereavements in two church families. The most recent is the loss of a sibling's child, at the age of only two days. Nineteen years ago, my wife gave birth to a stillborn child, so we know the devastating sense of loss they feel. The pain, at the time, is unbearable. There are no easy answers; nothing one can say which will ease the pain of loss. However much I want to, I can't take away their pain.

There isn't a 'best thing' one can do, because everyone suffers grief a little differently. Some wish, mainly, to be alone; others want company - but very often the sort of company who are able to sit comfortably in companionable silence, simply listening and 'soaking up' the hurt, the anger, the questions, without necessarily responding unless specifically asked for a response - many questions are rhetorical and need no answer - if, indeed, there is an answer…

Nineteen years on, I still don't really have answers. I know we survived (indeed, in the end, we more than survived - we emerged far stronger, but that's for another time). I know that the pain has gradually eased. I still don't really know why it happened, why God allowed it to happen. And it will probably be the same for my friends.

I have no real answers, but what I do know is that God used our suffering to teach us. The biggest thing we learnt, I think, is that we can rely utterly on God, and His people. He, and they, never let us down during that time - or since. Several of our friends sacrificed their own comfort, meals, sleep, time off, in our cause, and we are grateful that God gave them the grace and strength to do so. They were, in a very real sense, Christ for us, at a time when we couldn't have coped with 'theology', and needed God to have a physical representative - to help 'soak up' the hurt, and to deal with the practical.

My hope, at this time, is that I can, in some way, repay that debt of gratitude by 'being Christ' for these friends in their time of grief - whether 'being Christ' means being there physically, or doing some cooking, or simply keeping my distance and responding to the need in prayer. I just need some wisdom, so as to know what to do. I must be sensitive, and careful not to confuse my desire to help, with the idea that they necessarily need what I have to offer.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022