I confess to being a bit of a perfectionist. Not the neurotic, obsessive-compulsive sort, but I’m easily derailed when the details of life don’t go as planned. On the other hand, I’m pretty nimble when the big picture changes, even when it’s life and death.
When we grieve often it’s the details that bring us to an emotional standstill - when one we love dies, we’re no longer in control. And even though we might think there’s a specific way we should feel, act, or express our grief, there’s no instruction manual for grief, no standard or norm, no prescribed way to experience the death of one we love. Grief is not for perfectionists - there’s no perfect way to grieve.
Faithfulness is one of the hallmarks - perhaps it’s the very essence - of a true marriage. We honor and cherish our spouse or partner with the gift of unreserved trust, the fidelity of our spirit, the loyalty of our heart. Do we always do this perfectly? No, surely not. We try, but we’re human. Yet in healthy, growing relationships we work at perfect faithfulness and when we do, we stand a very good chance of getting it right, most all the time.
God is perfect. God is faithful. God’s perfect faithfulness is our one true guide through the valley of the shadow of death, “The Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deuteronomy 34:2 RSV). Belief in God’s perfect faithfulness is our greatest and best hope for surviving the death of one we love, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 NRSV). It’s a promise - God is a promise keeper.
At this point in my own grief I'm enjoying a different perspective, one of newfound gratitude for God's perfect faithfulness. As I've trudged through the journey of grief - I've made three round trips now - what I most appreciate is that God's hand has never once - not even for an instant - let go of mine. I cherish the certainty that God has walked beside me every step of the way through the sorrow and pain of grief. And when I've missed God at my side, I realize that God's presence has gone before me, faithfully lighting the way, leading me toward the joy of new life. This is my experience of God's perfect faithfulness.
When we grieve, many of us turn to the psalms for their comfort and assurance. The psalmists repeatedly speak to us of God’s perfect faithfulness (NRSV):
- For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. Psalm 33:4
- Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Psalm 36:5
- Do not, O Lord, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever. Psalm 40:11
- For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness extends to the clouds. Psalm 57:10
- But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15
- I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 89:1
- I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. Psalm 89:2
- For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:5
- For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Psalm 108:4
- Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness; answer me in your righteousness. Psalm 143:1
We’re not alone in our grief. God’s steadfast love and perfect faithfulness are our comfort, our hope, and our strength. God is perfectly faithful to you and to me – always.
Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.
Isaiah 25:1 NIV
Keep me this day, O God, in the comfort of your faithfulness. Amen.