I’ve been in full-time ministry for over 18 years. During that time I’ve preached many funerals, visited with countless grieving families, sat at the bedside of those who are dying, and even experienced my own grief that has literally brought me to my knees in tears. However, I still feel completely inadequate ministering to those who are grieving. That’s one reason I’m so thankful for my friend Michael Whitworth’s new book on grief and loss.
In addition to being an outstanding author, Michael Whitworth is a good friend of mine. In his new book, Life in the Shadow of Death, Michael shares his own grief journey after losing both his father and his two-year-old son, as well as he and wife experiencing multiple miscarriages. Michael, his wife, and their whole family have experienced more than their fair share of grief and loss.
I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for Michael’s transparency about his family’s grief. Sharing how he has felt, how he has learned to cope, things people have said and done that have helped, and things people have said and done that have been hurtful. By sharing his experiences, Michael is helping countless numbers of people deal with grief.
One audience for this book is people who are grieving. Sometimes we forget that it isn’t just the comforters who feel unsure about what to say, do, and feel. The grieving also feel unsure about what to say, do, and feel. Most people who lose a loved one are not experts at grief and many have never traveled down that road before.
They wonder if what they are feeling is normal, or even right. The grieving need permission to feel however they feel and to feel it whenever they feel it. They need to know that there are typical stages to grief, but the way they experience those stages will be unique to them. They need to know that grief isn’t something they are just supposed to “get over.”
There are also many grieving people who are grieving unconventional losses: divorce, miscarriage, suicide, etc. Michael touches on these types of losses as well. Anyone who has experienced a divorce, a miscarriage, or the suicide of someone close to them would benefit from this book.
This book isn’t just for those who are personally experiencing grief, but also for those who want to comfort and encourage the grieving. Michael helps us avoid being like Job’s friends, saying and doing things that are far more hurtful and helpful. He helps us understand why our presence and the words, “I’m sorry” and “I love you,” are among the very best ways to comfort our friends and family.
In fact, this book would be a great resource for churches to use in a small group or Bible study setting. The best comforters during times of grief and loss are often not elders or paid ministers (although their presence is obviously needed and appreciated), but close friends.
Every Christian needs to be equipped with the knowledge of how to love and support their friends during times of loss. After all, the New Testament gives us the picture of a priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:4-5), that every member is a minister and is filled with the Holy Spirit to offer the comfort to others we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). It’s time we equip and empower every member to minister to the rest of the body, so we can all help build the body up in love.
If you want to pick up Michael’s book, you can find it here: Life in the Shadow of Death: A Biblical & Experiential Guide to Grief.
I love you and God loves you,