“Were you the one that was there the night he passed away?” It was a haunting question. I am a local church Pastor and Chaplain for more than one First Responder Units. As such my ministry has allowed me to be the “one who was there” many times. It is not an easy role but it is a needed role.
It had been ten days since he passed away- an unexpected heart-attack took him instantly. Who could be prepared? They were not. Mid-fifties, wife, high school son soon to graduate. He, still in shock, is a temporary sofa surfer because he just can’t face going home. She was bearing a heavy load. They had no family of faith to lean on during that time.
She came looking for me. We met that night through the haze of shock and tears. The responders are always as helpful as they can be. But in the end it is a grim task. I try to connect at a deeper level but in that moment all is a blur. I left my card and contact so she could connect if needed. That is exactly what happened.
Do you wonder what to do? Do you wonder what to say? Do you choose to do nothing because you don’t have answers, don’t know what to expect, or are just plain scared? Would you reconsider your position for a moment? What if you could be the one? What if you could step up and offer encouragement? What if you had a better understanding of what to do? Could you be used of God in such a moment to touch the life of a friend, family, or even a complete stranger?
Death is one common denominator of life. Death is a great equalizer. Even if you know a loved one is dying you are never quite prepared for it. Death comes as a shock. It places us under tremendous pressure. It forces us to face certain realities. It forces us to make certain decisions very quickly. Death is life on overload.
What if I gave you the “magic bullet”… words that could make it instantly better. Guess what… those words don’t exist. It is a tragic moment! No words diminish the impact. Even if you had the loveliest words they will likely not be heard or remembered. The mind is in shock. Very little sticks in that moment. People won’t remember what you say. They will remember you were there. It is a ministry of presence.
The key to this and every ministry is to be used by God. We feel ill-equipped so we become paralyzed fear and do nothing. If He will use you (yes, He will) He will equip you for the moment. He isn’t seeking your ability but your availability. We make ministry too hard. Just be a usable vessel. Seize the moment.
The reward came that day. I got to hear her needs, meet a couple of them, and make a few referrals to other helping resources. Most importantly I was able to have a serious discussion about her own personal spiritual need. She was in church the next Sunday because the connections made were to her points of need. The story is just beginning. Our church is prepared to love her through her sorrow. How did we get this opportunity? Someone knew that doing nothing was not an option.
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you,” 1 Peter 5:7. He often cares through others.
Someone knew the church must break out.