All Souls’ Day is the time in the church’s year when we come together to give thanks for people who are no longer with us, and yet whose lives continue to matter to ours. We remind ourselves that all of those lives, no matter how long or short they were, also matter to God, in whose care they now rest. Therefore, an important part of commemorating All Souls’ Day is to remind ourselves what God is like. In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul says that love is the best word to describe God: love that is patient and kind, love that is generous and forgiving, love that wants the best for each of us, and love that endures through every circumstance. God is love, and therefore we trust that those whom we have loved and lost are held in his embrace.
However, trusting that our loved ones are safe in God’s care does not mean that we should not, or will not, feel the pain of their loss. When we lose someone we love, whether that someone was part of our lives for many years or for just a few, short hours, it can feel as though we are cast adrift on a stormy sea, unable to navigate our way through the huge waves of grief that threaten to overwhelm us. We need to find a way to pass through this storm, before we can re-enter the harbour and return to still waters. The problem is, some people want to hurry us through the storm. They use words like ‘moving on’ or ‘getting over’ our grief and returning to ‘normal’ life. But to move on from or get over our grief implies somehow leaving behind the person whose loss we are grieving, and we know – from personal experience and from what the Bible says – that love never gives up. Love never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. Love lasts forever, because God is love. Therefore, we don’t stop loving someone simply because they are no longer with us. We continue to love them, and to feel the pain of their loss.
This does not mean that we will always be overwhelmed by waves of grief which threaten to engulf us. However, I think we never completely return to still waters. We somehow weave the threads of that person into our own life story, and in doing so, find that there are times when we have re-entered the safety of the harbour and the calmer waters within. However, there will also be times when we are cast adrift again and waves of grief wash over us. Sometimes we have a sense when a storm is approaching – Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays…But sometimes the storm comes out of the blue, perhaps triggered by something we have seen or read, or something someone says to us. And without warning, we find ourselves overcome by sadness again.
In these moments, we can remind ourselves that not only are our loved ones held in God’s embrace, but we are too. God does not leave us to navigate a way through on our own, but rather, he gets inside our little boat and rides out the storm with us. He knows us, and loves us completely, and there is nothing that will ever be able to separate us from his love. Therefore, we trust that Paul was right when he wrote that three things will last forever – faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.
You can join us to remember loved ones at our special services on 3rd November