None of us are exempt from bereavement. We all have faced or will face it, even as Christians. But as Christians, we must know how to rightly respond when sorrow comes.
We will look to Andrew Bonar (1810-1892) as a godly example of walking faithfully through the deepest grief. Andrew Bonar led a quiet life as a faithful pastor in Edinburgh, Scotland. Bonar’s wife Isabella died unexpectedly at just 37 years old a few days after the birth of their daughter. Bonar felt her loss deeply.
The day his wife died, he wrote, “I have needed this affliction . . . Lord, let me not love you less, but more, because of this stroke.” It was no coincidence that the morning of her death, he had read in Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble. And He knows those who take refuge in Him.” In the midst of this overwhelming grief, Bonar ran to Scripture, the only solid foundation in the ever-changing scenes of life.
Bonar pleaded with God to pour out comfort because he could not find it himself. The death of his wife caused him to confess sins and see how he had neglected many things in his spiritual life. It also opened his eyes to his own selfishness.
At the scene of his wife’s death, he said that she had “slipped into glory.” The whole family stood around her deathbed and he was able to pray with his children after she died. He read to his children from Revelation 7.
“These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The quiet faithfulness of Isabella’s life was a comfort and a wonderful mirror of Christ’s reality to those around her. Many serve in these quiet, faithful ways.
Andew Bonar’s great loss did not go away quickly. He wrote, “My Lord and Savior is henceforth to be to me instead of what I have lost… He does not forbid me to mourn, nor forget to bless.”
In the days and weeks that followed, he felt huge waves of sorrow, yet he also felt the profound comfort of God. He entrusted not just himself, but his children also, to God. He thought back on their marriage day, but he longed much more for the Marriage Day of Christ when they would meet together forever.
Bonar felt an indescribable sadness, yet felt as if a hand held him up. May we be able to say with Andrew Bonar, even in the midst of unbelievable sorrow, “Blessed be the Lord God.”