The first funeral I recall attending was for the dad of a classmate who lived up the street from me. Her dad died suddenly and it scared me to learn this was a possibility. This meant my dad could die. My mom could die.
I could die.
I didn’t want to go to the funeral but my dad said I needed to go. So I went. I’ll never forget watching my friend walk into the church, her arms draped around her mother’s waist. I had never seen anyone cry so hard. Her entire body shook.
Afterward, I asked my dad why I had to go. “Because,” he said, “that’s what friends do.”
That’s what friends do.
It is, isn’t it? Friends go down to the valley with us. Friends aren’t afraid of the shadows. Friends don’t shy away from pain. They move closer to it. They make sure we’re not alone.
As I grew older I watched my father make great effort to attend funerals, sometimes for people he seemed to barely knew. I didn’t understand.
“Adults get invited to a lot weddings,” he explained. ” Someday you will, too. When that happens, make sure to go. But don’t forget about the funerals. Everyone loves to celebrate, fewer choose to mourn.”
I eventually learned my father got this from Jesus, the God of suffering. The God who hung on a cross to make it desperately clear there was no suffering he wasn’t willing to enter on our behalf.
Jesus doesn’t just show up at our weddings. You’ll find him at the funerals, too.
He is a suffering God. And this is good news because we are a suffering people.
As many of us know…when it’s our turn to pass through the valley, we need more than the alleluias of Easter. We need the cries of Good Friday.
And for that, I’m terribly grateful.
If you’re suffering today, please know that you’re not alone. And never will be.