A Christian Science perspective: Attending a funeral and offering comfort to a friend who may be grieving can be difficult. How can you be the most helpful?
My friend Betty published a cookbook, “Food for Gracious Occasions.” When I raved about a certain recipe, she said: “Yes, people love that one! It’s my special Funeral Casserole.”
Betty heads the “care committee” at her church. One of the committee’s activities is to provide ready-to-serve food when a fellow member reports a death in the family.
Such loving care can be a real comfort at these trying times. The gracious gift of a ready meal brings special meaning to the term “comfort food.” In reality, it is no less than an appropriate human expression of the divine largess.
Not only can we give creature comforts such as food, we can offer compassion in the best way we know how. We send flowers and cards. We bring gentle hugs of affection. Whether we make the connection or not, these human expressions of affection have their source in the love that is Love, God.
Attending funerals and related ceremonies is another thing, and many find it difficult. What do we say after we’ve said, “I’m sorry”? Distress can often seem hard to address face to face.
Jesus’ response to distress provides guidance. “Jesus ... was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). Compassion includes a deep heartfelt desire to do something to alleviate the distress. How did Jesus do it?
In the Christian Science textbook, Mary Baker Eddy explained his mighty works: “They are the sign of Immanuel, or ‘God with us,’ – a divine influence ever present in human consciousness and repeating itself ...” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. xi).
How can we bring healing to those who are hurting? Grief is a painful human condition, but there is always a divine solution. In my practice of spiritual healing through prayer, I see that when we suffer, what we suffer from is the human condition. Healing calls for rising higher in our aspirations to see the divine solution.
Prayer is the effort to lift human thought to a higher level. Too often we try to respond to human want and woe on the same human thought level. Jesus didn’t. He turned to God, Spirit, in prayer, and rose to the God-consciousness where the spiritual reality can be seen and felt and brings healing.
I’ve learned from studying the Scriptures and Science and Health how important it is to be ready to respond spiritually by having my thought uplifted through prayer. Unprepared, however, it is easy to get caught up in offering mere sympathy to others and to miss taking care of one’s own thought – keeping it based in divinity while delivering humanity a hug.
Jesus apparently saw what we often miss. Mrs. Eddy explained: “Through the magnitude of his human life, he demonstrated the divine Life. Out of the amplitude of his pure affection, he defined Love” (Science and Health, p. 54). She also described Jesus as “divinity embracing humanity in Life and its demonstration” (p. 561). His work was based on the laws of God and the order in which they operate. He summed up these laws: Love God supremely; Love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:36-40). The order is deliberate; alignment with God comes first: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
This spiritualized thought is not insignificant. It is the divine influence, the Christ-consciousness. When Jesus fed multitudes with a handful of fish and a few loaves of bread, he expressed the Christ. I like to think of this as “Creator comfort” humanly expressed as “creature comfort.” God, goodness, revealed can take the form of a ready-to-eat casserole, a note of comfort, a bouquet of fresh flowers, a loving hug, a tender word. Are they not creature comforts seen in humanity but sourced in divinity?
If we ever believe we are at a loss in the effort to comfort the grieving or to overcome any untoward condition, we can remember that the Christ comes to each of us right where we are to bring spiritual comfort and healing.
As we put God first in our thought, we rise to the consciousness of the Christ. From this heavenly perspective, we are ourselves comforted, a quality of God necessary to know and feel before we can go and be of any real help to another. Spiritually prepared, we can humbly expect our very presence to help uplift the atmosphere around us. When we’ve come to a funeral or to any difficult situation spiritually prepared to give, even thoughts unspoken graciously communicate the healing comfort of “divinity embracing humanity.”
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
II Corinthians 1:3-4, New International Version
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