Elisabeth Elliot was widowed twice and, therefore, understood grief better than most others. In a simple tract entitled “Facing the Death of Someone You Love,” which I recently discovered on one of my favorite book websites, she brings words of comfort to the bereaved by offering six specific points of counsel.
- Be still and know that He is God. Psalm 46 begins by describing the sort of trouble from which God is our refuge—the earth’s changing, or “giving way.” Stillness is something the bereaved may feel they have entirely too much of. But if they will use that stillness to take a long look at Christ they will get their bearings.
- Try to give thanks. Though Elisabeth’s first husband was murdered, and she watched “the excruciating disintegration” of her second, she could write, “I can thank God for the promise of His presence. I can thank Him that He is still in charge, in the face of life’s worst terrors.”
- Try to refuse self-pity. Nothing is “more paralyzing, more deadly, than self-pity. It is a death that no resurrection, a sink-hole from which no rescuing hand can drag you because you have chosen to sink.”
- Accept your loneliness. Elisabeth was able to say, “When God takes a loved person from my life it is in order to call me, in a new way, to Himself. It is therefore a vocation….Every stage on the pilgrimage is a chance to know Him, to be brought to Him.”
- Offer your loneliness up to God. “Something mysterious and miraculous transpires as soon as something is held up in our hands as a gift.”
- Do something for someone else. “There is nothing like definite, overt action to overcome the inertia of grief. ‘If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday’ (Isa 58:10).”
“There they are,” Elisabeth wrote, “six things that, if done in faith, can be the way to resurrection.”
Facing the Death of Someone You Love is published by Crossway and available from Biblical Counseling Books. At 10 cents each, you will want to keep a stack of these tracts on hand.