Holding All Things Together in times of Grief
“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17)
On 17 July 1985, at the age of 49, my father, hero, and mentor, took his last breath. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage, the result of unchecked and, therefore, unmedicated, high blood pressure. In a short span of time, he was literally here one day and gone the next. He was a godly man, and always did his best to point us—my 2 brothers, sister, and myself—toward the cross and the kingdom. Without even an instance of a thought to the contrary, I knew that Charles A. Rains, Sr., on that Wednesday afternoon, had gained entrance to the glory of heaven.
It goes without saying that I was devastated, but I was comforted by the hope of the assurance of salvation—his and mine—and that we would be seeing each other again. Fast forward several years to a class in pastoral care at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. While discussing loss and its subsequent grief, I shared my story about the death of my father, and how, as my initial way of coping with the loss, I went outside and shot basketballs at the goal he had put up in our backyard.
After much discussion and analysis of my situation, the small group, of which I was a part, concluded that I had not properly grieved his passing, even after several years, and that I was sure to have “issues” later in life. I didn’t agree with their assessment then, and the instance was filed away. I’ve retrieved it from the storage bin in my brain several times since then. After quick analysis, though, I still feel the same way now as I did all those years ago.
What brought me comfort in the midst of my grief then, is that which still brings me comfort 34 years later: that hope [in Christ] “does not disappoint” (cf. Romans 5:5), and that Christ does, indeed, hold all things together, especially in times of grief. I’m convinced that He is able to do so for the following reasons:
(1) He is the God of great design. His plan for my life was in place before the creation of the world. He knew that I would wander and stray, but also knew I would accept His call into Christian service, both in and out of the pulpit.
(2) He is the God of great detail. Every second and every breath have been minutely planned in His design for my life. Included in that plan was the death of my father and the surrounding details that have since helped shape my views regarding death and grief, and how, when it seems like our world has crumbled around us, it is the hope that we find in Him that sustains us.
(3) He is the God of great devotion. So often, in the midst of grief, we feel alone and abandoned. I’m of the belief that, if anyone is acquainted with grief, it is God. After all, He sacrificed His own Son for the sin and salvation of the world. He loves us with an everlasting love and is holding all things together, even as we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (cf. Psalm 23).
(4) He is the God of great demand. The demand is that of relationship with Him. It is a reciprocal relationship—His all for my all. Knowing that someone loves me enough to give His life as a sacrifice for mine, knowing that same person has planned my entire life to the smallest, most exact detail, and knowing that all He asks in return is obedience, is the most liberating, reassuring thought I can have.
For me, hope in the midst of grief is best affirmed in the words of a hymn from many years ago, one not heard much anymore, but one whose words still ring true: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way…”