My sister Anne recently posted two remembrances of our friend Mark who took his own life in late April. The pieces were composed and compiled with many more remembrances of Mark for his family so that they might see the impact he had on those who knew him. Each of them reflect the many ways in which his friends were blessed by him.
I wrote one of the remembrances. It is never easy to write about a friend who has died, and those feelings are deeply complicated in the case of suicide. Mark professed Christ throughout his life, and he gave clear expression to the fruit of the Spirit, which, of course, compounds the questions being asked those he left behind.
I knew that Mark wrestled with deep things, personal things. The life of the Christian is often marked by conflict, spiritual and otherwise, and I know these matters concerned him deeply. I am profoundly saddened that the conflict isolated him and that his burden seemed too great for him to bear in this life…
I miss Mark. We had fallen out of touch in recent years, but he is one of those people whom the Lord used to influence me in my early Christian life. I miss him sharing this world with us, but I do know that our Good Shepherd lives, and he gathers his sheep to himself. He knows them and they know his voice.
We don’t have all the answers to the questions that death raises, but we do have hope in God who is good, and just, cares for his sheep, and has conquered death. Anne remembers Mark in light of God’s goodness:
It is a sadness to me that Mark is not here to listen to his friends remember him, and that such a gifted and insightful person is not here any more. I trust and hope that he is now with the One who fully knows him and loves him and enjoys him as he was made — the Giver of all of his personality and significant talents and gifts.
When we grieve those who have passed away, we are right to give thanks to God “from whom all blessings flow” including the blessing of that person for that season in our lives (though sometimes the pain-blessing analysis seems unbalanced to be sure). Acknowledging that fact does not relieve the grief, but it does help us to grieve as those who have hope (1 Thess 4:13-14), hope in a good God who turned death on its ear by taking it upon himself.
Our grief is real and often overwhelming. Christ was overwhelmed by it too, he cried out to his Father from his valley of the shadow, and he can empathize with us now as a result. Like his grief, our grief has a telos, it has an end.
You can read Anne’s post here.