What made my most recent funeral the most difficult I have ever preached?

I have easily done over 100 funerals in the last 10 years, but none quite as burdening and difficult as the funeral I preached on Tuesday.  It was the funeral of a dear friend and faithful deacon in our congregation that had been killed in the head on collision on the 2nd St. Bridge last Friday.  The funeral was in this man’s hometown about 3 hours from home.

As the funeral approached, nothing I tried lifted the burden.  No matter how much I prayed or meditated on Scripture, the weight remained and it was to an intensity I cannot recall ever feeling.  As I reflected afterwards, here are the factors that seemed to create this “perfect storm” of struggle that peaked at an unbearable level just a few minutes before the funeral began:

1)  The burden to console a young widow and fatherless kids.  My friend’s death left a young wife and 2 little kids without a husband and father.  It is one thing to lose a dear friend as I did with my pastoral mentor 2 days prior.  Yet he, by God’s grace, died with his wife and they had no children.  There is a whole other side to grief and sorrow when you watch a wife take her 5 year old daughter to the open casket and watch that little girl say goodbye to her daddy.

2)  The burden of souls in my care grieving.  As I watched many from our church take the day off work, load up their kids, and drive 3 hours just to attend this service, I was deeply affected by the level of grief most in our church were experiencing.  Many of our people came seeking to support this wife, say goodbye to their friend, and anticipate to hear the Word of God in such a way from their pastor that would maybe provide some answers to this tragedy.

3)  The burden of souls lost without Christ present.  I was prepared that many of the locals that would attend this funeral were not believers in Christ, in fact we learned some were even hostile to the gospel and mad at God for this tragedy.  As the chapel at the funeral home began to fill to full standing capacity of lost souls who maybe had never heard the gospel before, I felt the burden grow even more.

4)  The burden of expectation to honor my friend.  The deceased was not only a dear friend, but had impacted many and the pressure to accurately portray the faithfulness of this man was an honor, but nevertheless also a burden.  There is one primary moment when the faithfulness of every man’s life is expected to be vividly described and that is when a hurting, captive group gathers as this one did to remember and celebrate his life.

5)  The burden of burying a man my age.  I would be lying if I did not acknowledge the burden that existed in burying a man 2 months younger than I am.  Most of the funerals I have done have been for the elderly, or at least those in the latter parts of their life.  There was a heaviness to burying my friend who was my age and left a daughter behind who is the same age as my youngest daughter.

By the sustaining grace of God, I stood with this great, unshakable burden on my shoulders and preached this man’s funeral.  Within seconds of concluding the funeral, the burden was gone.  It was like I had preached it out of me.  As I look back on my desire for God to lift the burden beforehand, I realized it was this sovereignly appointed burden that God used to force my complete reliance upon Him in that moment.  The burden created an edge to my preaching that is not as prevalent when a burden as this is absent. 

Although the burden was great and I pleaded for it to be lifted, it was necessary to do what God had appointed for me to do and in the manner it needed to be done.  I think it was the closest I have ever felt to Richard Baxter’s exhortation to, “preach as a dying man, preaching to dying men.”

I am a bit closer now than I was to understanding God’s purposes in the thorn that makes Christ’s power perfected in weakness.  What has God taught me through this most difficult funeral? Embrace the burden, dear brothers, regardless how great it is for although weak, the power of Christ in it truly makes us strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Posted in Caring for Widows, Funerals, Oversight of Souls, Preaching
11 comments on “What made my most recent funeral the most difficult I have ever preached?
  1. Chad Beck says:

    God bless. We will continue to lift this family, you and your church family up in prayer.

  2. Jason Nicholls says:

    Amen.

  3. Andrew Middleton says:

    This brings tears to my eyes, but at the same time encouragement!! I send a prayer the family!

  4. Becky Moore says:

    Praying for this family, thank you for being obedient to your call!

  5. Bob Kellemen says:

    Pastor Brian, Thank you for such a wonderful Psalms-like example/model of candidly sharing your soul as you provide soul care for others. I am praying for this family and for you. In Christ’s Grace, Bob

  6. Tami Black says:

    As always, Brian, I am overwhelmed with God’s calling for your life and this is another example of His perfect will in our lives. Carry on faithful servant. Much love and many prayers for you and your church.

  7. Annette Gysen says:

    We were this family in 1996, when I was a widow in my early thirties with a 4-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy, and my heart breaks for the pain they are experiencing now and will continue to experience. I’m thankful for them that they have a loving pastor and church family–that will make all the difference. I encourage you, Pastor Croft, and your church not to forget them. Your ministry to them has only begun with the funeral.

  8. Guy Lancour says:

    Brian,

    Two months ago I preached the funeral for a younger man in our congregation who died at his own hands out of the blue. He left behind a young wife and small child. He was my friend. He was fully involved in the life of the church and his passing has been incredibly difficult for many. We are still in the process of recovering.

    I fully understand your burden. This was more than difficult and words really don’t do justice to the burden of bearing your own grief and the grief of others. In my short-time experience, I think the emotional and spiritual toil of those days and these last few months will stay with me for a long time. But at the same time there is joy in being able to walk with friends through the valley of the shadow of death and to see Jesus present in every moment. It is one of the unmentionable graces that God gives us in our ministries.

    blessings

    Guy

  9. David Ould says:

    Thanks Brian,

    I’ve had a similar experience. 2 years ago we buried a faithful leader at our church, taken by cancer in his early 50s and leaving a wife (who was burying a husband for a second time) and 2 teenage daughters.

    God was very good to us through the whole experience, albeit often in the way you described.

    One thing we are convinced of – the authentic Christian life is cross-shaped and we are therefore not foolish enough to think that those things that are best for us are necessarily the easiest. That would be to make a mockery of the Cross itself.

6 Pings/Trackbacks for "What made my most recent funeral the most difficult I have ever preached?"
  1. [...] What made my most recent funeral the most difficult I have ever preached Read it and weep….and [...]

  2. [...] week, I wrote about the most difficult funeral I have ever preach which was for a dear friend and faithful deacon in our church who was killed in a car accident 2 [...]

  3. [...] friend Brian Croft. O, how the world needs more churches like this one! Last week, I wrote about the most difficult funeral I have ever preach which was for a dear friend and faithful deacon in our church who was killed in a car accident 2 [...]

  4. [...] in book form in this new book.  As someone who has done many funerals and have experienced some significant loss as of late, I found this book to be a great help and the best concise volume on the topic I have [...]

  5. [...] family who suddenly lost their husband and father.  For more details on these circumstances read this earlier post about preaching the funeral and the way the church has cared for her.  Many of you have been asking, so I thought the best way [...]

  6. [...] is no pastoral handbook for this one.  Yet, when my dear friend and deacon in my church was killed in a car crash 3 months ago, his wife and 2 young children were left shocked and full of questions.  This includes his really [...]

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