My church has gone through a series of tragedies lately. As of last Thursday, we’ve hosted six separate memorial services for different people in our community, all of whom were dearly loved, most all of whom died before their time. In response, we’ve decided to postpone our planned service programming and simply meet Together for three Sundays and pray, worship, and love one another. Our worship will be unplugged and in-the-round, and we will have a lot of opportunities to touch one another, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
In the midst of this, I am reminded that God is the God of our sorrow as well as the God of our joy. The Bible models a lot of worship that is cast in sorrow, including many of the Psalms, the book of Lamentations, and other passages. We also know that Jesus was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53), well acquainted with grief Himself. And so, in order to properly reflect the condition of our souls before God, we will worship in the shadow of longing, sadness, neediness, and ultimately, our certain hope.
I was reflecting upon this succession of memorial services, and I was so profoundly moved by the testimonies of those who grieved our losses. Our dear friends who have passed lived lives fully immersed in God’s grace, loving and caring for those around them. In their own ways, they each made a marked and eternal difference in the lives of many people. It was inspiring, as well as humbling, as I heard testimony after testimony, funeral after funeral, of those who shared the stories of God in the midst of it all. My only regret the departed couldn’t hear these testimonies with us.
In response, a friend of mine shared a story of an older man he knows. This gentleman, also well acquainted with grief, was known for being complimentary to everyone, encouraging and speaking truth to all around him. When asked about why he was so supportive and cheery, he explained that he had laid down roses on the coffins of many friends over the years. And he realized that he wanted to spend the rest of his life laying roses on the people who were still living.
I’ve found myself thanking people a lot more lately. I’m making room in the cracks of my life to voice my appreciation to others. I’m being more purposeful in speaking words of encouragement. And I’m also taking the time to just stop and be thankful to God for my friends.
Laying roses. Sounds like a good way to live.