Most of us have a dark chapter in our story. A time when we grieved for someone, or something. A time we find hard to look back on. We are not always very good at telling that part of our story.
But those parts of our story are important. We don’t tear those chapters out. Because we believe in a God who is involved in our story, and we continue to tell the story of God, even with the difficult bits. The Bible is full of honest grappling with the dark parts of our story – of family fall-outs, or childlessness, of death. The Psalms in particular do not shy away from yelling at God when we feel life has dealt an unfair hand. But in that, we remember that though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us.
Holding that in tension is part of remembering forwards. Remembering forwards means looking back to the dark chapters with a confidence that comes from knowing the future. It’s a bit of time-travelling Jesus-style, less Doctor Who and more Doctor no-longer-required. It’s embracing that part of us that hurts, not burying it in the sand. Because though we are sad, we are not abandoned to sadness. Though we are thirsty, we are not left parched. ‘To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.‘
When death hits us, we may feel like we are stranded in a desert with no water, with all that is familiar gone. Many of us simply do not know what to do. So we live in denial, employing various tactics from the stiff upper lip, to humour, to making shrines, all of which can have their place, at the right time… but, when we are thirsty, none of these things are drinking from the water of life, they’re just re-arranging the sand.
But in remembering forwards, we know we have a hope, we who believe and trust in Jesus Christ. A hope that marks us out. For we do not believe death is the end, because we believe Jesus is coming back, and when he does we will be raised with him. Yet this hope is not reserved for the end of time. We do not sit here in our grief, thirsty for hope, left to yearn for some distant future when everything will be ok. That future hope breaks into our present; that is what Jesus talked about when he talked of the Kingdom of God breaking in. He began his ministry talking about bringing freedom for captives, sight for the blind, release for the oppressed, comfort for the mourning.
Grief is hard, and can seem never-ending when you’re in the middle of its waterless desert. But. We can be people who trust in Jesus, in and through our confident remembering, and allow him to lead us confidently forwards to that place where we can drink freely from the spring of the water of life.