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What To Say (And Not To Say) To Someone Who Just Lost A Loved One

Family and friends, please forgive me if, in my ignorance (and uncertainty about what to say in the moment), I have ever uttered such un-Biblical and unloving words to you in your darkest time of personal loss. Lord, have mercy!

 
"Satan is also the Bringer of Death. One of the most distressing things a pastor can tell a grieving person is, 'God took her; we don't know why.' Ridiculous! God did not bring sickness and death into the world -- Satan did. The blame for deaths and sicknesses and every other bad thing that happens to mankind lays squarely on the Devil's doorstep, not on God's. Indeed, even though there are times when God in His justice has taken lives, that is an extreme rarity. It is generally the job of Satan, directly or indirectly, to bring death. 
When a drunk driver hits a family car and kills a child, it is irresponsible and wrong for the pastor to say, 'Well, God took him for reasons of His own.' NO! God is NOT responsible for that death; it was Satan who enslaved the drunk driver to alcohol, Satan who tempted him to get behind the wheel, and Satan who taunted him into exceeding the speed limit. The human took the drink, the human got behind the wheel, and the human pushed the speed limit and lost control of the car. God did not do those things, nor did He cause them to be done. It is Satan who holds the power of death over mankind. The author of Hebrews speaks of this in his discourse on the Incarnation: 'Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death -- that is, the Devil -- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.' (Hebrews 2:14-15). 
Telling a grieving person that God took their loved one for reasons unknown is not only unscriptural, it can alienate the person from a God who they think has unjustly robbed them of wife, husband, child, brother or sister. But the Gospel tells us that God does not VISIT death upon His beloved children; He REVERSES it. He NULLIFIES the work of the Devil, restoring that which sin has taken away. Better to lay the blame of death where it belongs: with Satan. The God of the Bible is the God of LIFE. It is His work to give life, not to inflict death. It was death He came in the flesh to conquer." 
-- Pastor Darrell Arthur McCulley


I thought that was a really good reminder for all of us.

Again, I know that I have personally resorted to the standard "God has a plan" apathetic response at times and that's on me. Sure, it's true, God does have a plan (Romans 8:28), but what the above quote is getting at is that we need to offer a more Biblical, comforting, and loving response in the moment.

The pain, hurt, and suffering at another's time of great loss is palpable and it's ok to simply say nothing while weeping with them. May we remember we have a Savior Who suffered for them and for us too. He knows what we/they are going through.

On the cross, Jesus suffered in complete weakness to remove your spiritual blindness. At your Baptism, He washed your spiritual eyes and cleansed your soul. Through His suffering, He grants healing and all the blessings of heaven. Though now you may live in weakness, as did Job and the apostle Paul, the power of almighty God rests upon you and works through you. His "grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:9). God saves you and sustains you through Jesus Christ.


In a Lutheran layman's terms, may we all prayerfully consider all of this the next time someone we know is hurting from a death so that we know what to say (and not to say) to someone who just lost a loved one.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just your average everyday Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to "Confessional Lutheranism" and one who recently escaped an American-Evangelical-Non-Denominational mindset a little more than 6 years ago now despite being a Christian my whole life. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way back into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the whole truth myself. With that in mind, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavily influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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