It's a sad day when someone loses a loved one. Friends and family come together to console and comfort each other. Many times we offer words of comfort and encouragement to those who have suffered a loss. I think many times we feel compelled to say something because it seems the appropriate thing to do. We feel for and with them and want to help. However, the words we say, to those who are grieving, have meaning. We would do well to remember that. Some of the words I've heard offered to people seem like a good thing to say until we look at their meaning and implications. An example of such words that I've heard used countless times before, spoken usually to a family who has lost a child, go along the lines of "We're so sorry. Billy died before his time."
Admittedly, at first glance, this appears to be an appropriate thing to say. When we consider "the norm", parents are usually the ones who depart this life first. For the most part this does seem to be the "normal" progression of things. Of course it's sad when a child dies and a parent doesn't have the opportunity to see that child grow and learn. It's unfortunate when a parent is unable to see what becomes of their child as they reach adulthood and make a life of their own. It's frustrating to not know if that child would have become a competent athlete, accomplished musician, farmer, doctor, or public leader. As a result, we want to console those who are grieving.
But what do our words mean? Are our words helpful and beneficial? If we use the example of "We're so sorry. Billy died before his time" and consider it from a Biblical viewpoint, we see that better words should be chosen to share with those who are grieving. There are at least three false implications in regards to God that can easily be used by Satan to attack those who are grieving by bringing them doubt about our Holy God.
The first thing about the statement "Billy died before his time" is that it denies God's omniscience, His ability to know everything; past, present, and future. The statement implies that God did not know that Billy would die. The implication screams at those who are mourning, "If God would have only known, He could have done something about it."
A second thing about the statement "Billy died before his time" is that it denies God's omni-presence, His ability to be everywhere all at once. The statement implies that God was unable to be there when Billy died. The implication screams at those who are mourning, "If God could have only been there, He could have done something about it."
A third thing about the statement "Billy died before his time" is that it denies God's omnipotence, His ability to be all-powerful. The statement implies that God was unable to do anything about Billy's death. The implication screams at those who are mourning, "God just wasn't able to save your son. It was out of His control."
To say "Billy died before his time" is to say that God wasn't there, He didn't know about it and even if He did He would have been helpless to do anything about it. These are not words we would want to share with anyone who is mourning the loss of a loved one. In fact, they would do more harm than good. Satan would love for us to use these words so that he might bring doubt by whispering in the ears of those mourning, "This God can't help you and He must not love you. If He was unable to save your son, what good is He? Could this powerless God that you believe in even truly save you from damnation?" These are not words of comfort that we would want to share.
What then would be better options in a time of mourning? Better words to share with someone could be as simple as "My condolences" "I'm sorry for you loss" or "We'll be praying for you". Depending on your level of friendship with those who are mourning you can offer a meaningful nod, a gentle squeeze of a shoulder or even a hug. We don't always have to use words to communicate comfort. When we do, however, we should want to be mindful of what we're saying. We don't want our words to be twisted by the evil one, causing more pain and even doubt's about God for those who are mourning. We want them to cling to Christ, for He clings to them through His saving blood.
Soli Deo Gloria