As a new pastor it didn't take me long to realize that funerals and weddings are often very complicated times for families. During the mourning and sorrow of a funeral, and during the busyness and stress of a wedding, the sins and shortcomings of our extended families are usually, by necessity, thrust onto center stage. As a pastor I find myself fielding more prayer requests for family unity during these times than any other - and more often than not the tension is high. This, of course, is not how it is supposed to be. Yet in this world of sin this is how it is.
I was thankful this week to have a letter shared with me, written by a friend, as he dealt with all of the challenging family divisions that the death of one of his in-laws raised. As he considered the family challenges the dead left behind he wrote:
If you really think about it, leaving this world is quite easy. Death is easy for the dying since they do not really have to do anything at all. Furthermore, the dead are not sad. But for those of us who remain, the plot always thickens, and the creation groans louder. When death is on the air, there is no greater hope than the truth that our citizenship is with our Creator.
It is tempting to despair when things are not as they should be, when death comes home, when sin penetrates so deeply into our family lives, and when no human resolution to our problems is possible. But the Christian should not, cannot despair - we can only groan louder as we await our Savior and the new kingdom that is yet to come. And our groaning is not without hope. It is, as Paul says, akin to the groans of the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22). It is groaning with hope for something new. It is groaning with assurance and longing. It is groaning with joy in view of the promises of a new kingdom where death will be no more and family strife unheard of.