I had one of those odd experiences that come during the grief walk. A friend’s father had passed away, so I went to the funeral home for visitation. It was the same funeral home where I said goodbye to the two greatest men in my life this last year…even the same room. I could not bring myself to even look toward the casket. I would let the family have their last look, all I could see where the faces I had lost.
As I hugged my friend, I told her: “It’s hard to lose your daddy.” She said, “I know you understand.” Then, just as quickly, I hugged her mother and heard the same phrase: “I know you understand.” As I told myself so many times in those early days, I told her to be thankful for the many wonderful years they had together, already calculating how many more she was granted, but without envy…it just happens.
Then I walked away, not able to stay in the room for longer than the required custom allowed. That’s when it hit me — I could identify with both of them. Sigh. It’s not something I was proud of, but I realized that it was a life experience the Lord had allowed in my life that He could use to bring comfort to others.
When we identify with another, we validate their pain and grief. Even if it’s as a cancer survivor, you have earned the ability to identify with others facing the struggle anew. Survivors of natural disasters are many times those who reach out first to new victims of nature’s fury.
Then there’s another identity that we carry. Paul says it best in his letter to the church in Galatia: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. This is the ultimate identification. Once I’ve so identified with Christ, I now live the life that draws others to Him as well. I don’t have to do this, I could keep my grief lessons to myself, but I want to do what the Apostle Paul did — making himself a slave to everyone — really identifying with everyone, to win as many as possible. Here’s what he says in 1 Corinthians 9:
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
My grieving friends didn’t need saving — they knew the Lord, but I think the Lord used me, as I identified with them, to help save them from the despair of grief in that moment.
Who do you identify with? Are you doing it so…some might be saved? I pray so.
Grace and Peace