Son of man, with one blow I will take away your dearest treasure. Yet you must not show any sorrow at her death. Do not weep; let there be no tears. (Ezekiel 24:16)
Relate: I am not married. I have never been married. I’ve lived a good chunk of my adult life believing I never will be married. It is difficult for me to understand the depth of love that exists between a husband and a wife. Ezekiel is not a young man at the time of this writing. He was one of the leaders taken during the first exile to Babylon. He was a respected member of his community. The other elders and leaders often came to him for wisdom and advice. As a respected older good Jewish man, he had probably been with his wife for a long time. There was probably more than just a formal arrangement between a husband and his bride. They were friends, partners, confidants. Now they are torn apart. But Ezekiel, by command of God, cannot cry.
I have no familiarity with marriage, but I am no stranger to grief. Over the summer just before I started college I had two different friends killed in two different accidents. Since that time I’ve lost a grandfather, an uncle, my dad, two aunts (one on my father’s birthday just less than a year after his death), my grandmother, a couple cousins (one who was also my roommate for over a year), my sister and her newborn (on Mother’s Day), and more. Each loss in its own way is hard. Each brings its own grief which cannot be tempered by the sorrows that have gone before. I cannot imagine God telling me, “Do not cry.” I do not think I could obey, even if He did.
React: As important as it is to be real with others, there is also a time to take that real and bury it. Ezekiel could grieve, just not publicly. He could mourn, but was barred from going through the traditional (very healthy) mourning rituals. Even in times of greatest distress, he was still serving a higher purpose. There were others who knew and loved his wife as well. There were others who needed to hear and respond to a word from God, and at a time when emotions are so raw and open, they were far more likely to truly listen. They could only listen, however, if Ezekiel was focused on the message and not on his own grief. How we handle grief has the potential to be the greatest opportunity to witness we might ever have in another’s life. Are we willing to use it?
God, I know You are not the author of evil, but You can bring good from it. Death is an enemy, but it is one that You have defeated. Thank You for the hope that Your victory brings. Thank You for the confidence I can have that I will be reunited with Your children who are my family and loved ones who have gone on before. I know that one day death itself will die. Until that time help me to use each one that I am given, whether I am walking on sunshine or passing through the valley of shadows, for Your glory.