A knock on the door brings tragic news and a need for Christian comfort.
Brian D. Guhr
During my career as a deputy sheriff and detective for a local sheriff’s department, I found that making death notifications was the most distasteful of all my duties. Oftentimes this notification was received from another jurisdiction where the death occurred. The information we received usually only contained the names of the deceased and the next of kin. We never delivered the information alone, and officers told the surviving family to contact the other agency for any additional information.
It was difficult. We would arrive at a stranger’s home, wake them in the early morning hours, and deliver the worst of all news: A loved one had passed away. We would stay for a short time, offer condolences and any services we could provide, and then leave. We were not to be clergy or counselors, just messengers.
I always wondered what became of “those people.”
The knock on the door
On Feb. 13, 2017, my wife and I were awakened by a pounding on our front door at about two in the morning. Two officers told us that our oldest daughter had passed away. Since all deaths are investigated, they told us to contact the department that was handling the investigation. Along with offering condolences and any services they could provide, they offered us the services of their department chaplain. We thanked them and told them that their chaplain was one of our pastors. They stayed for a short time and left. Ironically, we had just become “those people.”
At my daughter’s funeral, when receiving condolences from family and friends, a good friend from our church’s Saturday morning men’s Bible study gave me a hug and whispered something in my ear. I was a physical and emotional wreck so I had to ask him to repeat it. He whispered, “Romans 8:28.”
I had read and meditated on that passage many times before: “We know that in all things God works for the good of all those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This time, because of my emotional state, I wasn’t feeling “the good,“ but those words stayed with me.
For the funeral service, our pastor chose Jeremiah 29:11 as the text for his message: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” Pastor told us that in all the years of his ministry, he had never selected this text as a basis for a funeral message but felt that it would be a comfort to us.
Months earlier, my wife and I had booked our winter vacation to Punta Cana. We were scheduled to leave on Feb. 23, ten days after the knock on the door. The days between our daughter’s death and our departure were spent wavering between going or staying. With the encouragement of our family and friends we decided to go. Our winter vacation history is that of “planting” ourselves at the resort. We don’t stray, but keep close to our room, the beach, the groomed grounds, the beach, the dining room, and the beach. We would have ample time with our thoughts.
Once airborne, I remember thinking that the weather and our vacation routine would probably be good, but then we would have to return home. Nothing would have changed. Our daughter would still be gone, and my grieving would go on. The sorrow I was feeling for my loss overwhelmed the joy of knowing that our daughter was with our Lord and Savior, Jesus, in heaven.
My wife and I spent countless hours in prayer and meditating on God’s Word and promises as we lounged on the beach. My prayers were for God to send his Holy Spirit for comfort and peace. My meditations focused on some of these important verses and readings:
- Exodus 14:14: “The LORDwill fight for you; you need only to be still.”
- Psalm 46:10: “Bestill, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
- Matthew 8, Mark 4,and Luke 8: The account of Jesus calming the storm. “Quiet! Be still!” was an important verse to remember.
- Deuteronomy 31:6:“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave nor forsake you.”
- Joshua 1:5:“No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I treasured the promise that I will never be alone in my storm.
- Romans 8,especially verses 26-28.
- Hebrews 11 (Byfaith).
- Jeremiah 29:11: the versethe pastor preached on at my daughter’s funeral.
With my focus now on God’s truths, the scales began to tip in the favor of joy. The return home was not as dreadful as I had imagined.
Over the years, our daughter had become a not-so-frequent church attendee. My wife and I had some concerns as we had modeled and expressed the importance of regular worship to all of our children. After we returned home, our daughter’s brothers and sister were cleaning out her apartment. Among her possessions they found her Bible and a small plaque that she had purchased. On it were the words of Jeremiah 29:11.
As the grieving process continued, I realized that I had never experienced anger. My wife and I went through this process together as well as individually. My wife also never experienced anger. The only conclusion I could come to was that deep in our hearts we have the blessed assurance of knowing that one day we all will be reunited in heaven. God, through his Holy Spirit, has strengthened my faith using his Word in Isaiah 57:1, “The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil,” and James 4:8, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
My wife and I continue our worship, small group participation, and individual Bible studies at home. The peace and comfort we receive from God’s Word and promises, our daughter’s plaque on our mantle as a daily reminder, and the fellowship we share with our Christian brothers and sisters bolster our faith. I now better appreciate the words: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1).
As two of “those people,” we thank God for all of you, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Author: Bryan D. Guhr
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019