Finding completeness in God's love
Norwich vicar Revd Philip Young writes about his experiences of bereavement and the completeness that is found in God's love.
As I write it is nearly three months since my dear wife Anna died suddenly of a heart attack at the end of February 2012.
As a Christian I have no worries about Anna. Her life is complete and she is with our God of love in heaven forever more. God is love and when you die I believe that you are with God, and completely held in his love, for all eternity. It is difficult to understand just what it is going to be like, but I believe it will be much more beautiful and much more wonderful than we can ever imagine. On this earth we know something of God’s love and care for us, but I imagine we are like those standing on the edge of a vast sea of love and just feeling the water with our toes. Swimming in God’s love for all eternity will be beautiful beyond our wildest dreams.
I am now living the life of a bereaved person and it is early days in the healing process. For twenty-four years Anna and I were the best of friends and soul mates. Inevitably I feel incomplete and torn apart by the separation that her death has meant to me. When you marry we say that the two people become one, and so, when death seperates you, it is like losing half of yourself. Many other bereaved people will tell you much the same.
So where to turn in order to feel complete and whole again? It is all too easy, I believe, to bury your pain by running away from it. You might do this by over-busying yourself in your job or in numerous activities to take your mind off the pain. You could do it by rushing too soon into another relationship because you cannot bear the pain of being alone. You might be so distraught that you start to rely on drugs of one sort or another, be it medicine or alcohol.
I believe there is the necessity to come to that place of rest and peace where you are content to be on your own and to enjoy your own company. There is nothing quite like having to come to terms with the empty bed, the empty chair and the empty house or Vicarage. It is so hard at first, but it is a necessary stage, I am discovering, of the process of letting go of the loved one and coming to that place of peace after the trauma of bereavement.
The next stage is to find your completeness and contentment in God’s love. Just as your loved one has moved on to be with God in heaven, the bereaved person has to move on and find God’s love and presence on this earth. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, for God’s love fills both heaven and earth.
There is a profound sense in which all of us are alone. Some choose to live alone or end up living alone despite their best wishes and others may feel very alone even if they are living with someone else. A loveless marriage can be a very lonely place. Even in a happy marriage there is a wisdom that says we must be content to be on our own, and to be our own person. One person relying too much on another person can create an unhealthy relationship.
I was very much helped and encouraged by words from the Gospel of John read on Sunday May 13th this year. Chapter 15 verse 9 reads, ‘As the father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love’ and verse 11 reads, ‘I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.’
Anna has her completeness in God’s love. It is more difficult for those of us left to live out our earthly existence. The answer to all our yearnings is to be in that place where God is and that is possible right here and now. The answer is to be found in some beautiful verses at the end of Psalm 16,
‘You shall show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures for evermore.’
Thanks be to God, for in his love we find our completeness,