Involved as I am in senior adult ministry at our church, I wind up doing numerous funerals each year--for more than I'd like to of course because these folks for the most part have been active church members whom I've come to know and love in the time I've served on staff here. I met with the daughter of one such member this afternoon to plan her mother's service for this coming Monday morning. The lady whose service I will officiate that day was 94 years old and had been a member of our congregation for 47 years. It has been my privilege to know and visit her regularly for the past 6 years or so. I'm okay with that kind of a funeral, even though it certainly prompts some feelings of sadness and sorrow at bidding goodby to a friend.
I'm not so comfortable or emotionally okay with the graveside service I was asked to do this morning for a young couple whose wedding I performed a couple of years ago. They lost their first baby this past week when the mother was 8 and a half months along in her pregnancy. That is the kind of funeral that is much harder to accept emotionally than one where the person has lived a long, full life.
What do you say in a situation like this? I'm convinced that what you shouldn't try and do is to answer the inevitable question of "Why?" Why us? Why our family? Why our child? Attempting to answer those questions is pointless and fruitless. It's pointless because we cannot know the mind of God at this point nor His reasons for allowing the child's death. It's fruitless because what this young couple needed this morning was not a logical explanation (as if there were one) but rather a message of hope and encouragement.
I used David's experience with the death of his son and tried to draw some principles from his response--he worshipped God; he recognized that death was a part of life and resumed his normal activities; and he focused on a future hope when he affirmed that while the child could not come back to him, he would go to the child. One of the final things I shared was a statement that I read in a book by Paul Powell that I received back in the dark ages in seminary entitled Gospel for the Graveyard. In fact, the basic outline (though not the thoughts for the message) were gleaned from the book as well.
The quote that spoke so powerfully to me, and I hope to the couple and their extended family as well, came from another couple who had experienced a similar loss of a young child. Their statement was this: "We have determined not to ask why until we get into the presence of the One who can give us the answer."