Several events have been juxtaposed recently that have me thinking. In a city near us, a man wrote a letter of protest because some city buses posted the words “Merry Christmas.” Apparently it conflicted with his own religious views. But so what? Nobody was asking him to change what he believes. Predictably and thankfully, many citizens contacted city hall, telling the powers that be to leave the greetings right where they are.
Far more seriously, I know of a funeral taking place this afternoon. Called a “Gathering” (what we used to call a wake), it simply involves family and friends visiting with one another, sharing remembrances of the departed loved one. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But for me there’s something missing. As far as I know, there will be no message of comfort from the Word of God, no encouragement from the great hymns of the faith, no prayer. Just conversation. That was the choice of the immediate family, and the choice was theirs to make. But how sad it is.
These events, one more trivial (except in its implications), the other more significant in my view, come on the heels of the horrific massacre this week, at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. A deranged gunman took the lives of twenty children and six adults, including his own mother, before shooting himself.
Understandably there was an outpouring of grief, not only by those immediately involved, but by commentators and politicians and more. But there was something else. Repeated calls for prayer to be offered for the sorrowing. And prayer vigils, where hymns were sung. Today being Sunday, I know there will be church services where believers call upon God to give comfort and wisdom, healing and hope, and earnest pastors will open the Scriptures to share what the Lord has to say to them.
Whether it’s trying to do away with any remembrance of the birth of our Saviour, or determining to strip a time of deep need of anything that might be of spiritual benefit, the loss is beyond reckoning. If God is not in our lives, if we have no incarnate Saviour, we have no hope (Eph. 2:12).
I awoke in the night with Thomas Moore’s beautiful hymn running through my mind.
Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.”
We are spiritual creatures, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. And through God’s Son, our Saviour, and through the ministrations of His Holy Spirit our heavenly Father has provided grace for our times of need, grace and mercy for the asking (Heb. 4:14-16).
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” That will be fulfilled in the ultimate and eternal sense when the saints are called into His presence. In the heavenly city there will be no more tears or sorrow, no more pain or death (Rev. 21:4).
But it’s true in the immediate sense as well. There is help available today and every day. In and through Christ, “Our God and Father…has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace” (II Thess. 2:16). If we are “walking in the fear of the Lord,” we will also experience “the comfort of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:31). Oh, please! Don’t miss out! “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you” (Ps. 55:22).