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Heart Attacks

A dear family in our church just lost a son, husband, dad, brother, and friend (same person) to a sudden heart attack. A man in his 40s, what is considered the “prime of life.” And again I have been reminded of the treasure we have in frail human bodies, so easily stolen away by disease or accident. So my heart is heavy and I am praying for this extended family. I know what it is like to say goodbye to loved ones, yet not one this young.

As parents we sometimes breathe a sigh of relief when we manage to keep our children alive until age 18 or 21. The longer we live, the more we can relate to grief from many life roles. We never want to, or expect to, say goodbye to our children before our own deaths. Spouses often expect to share grandchildren and fulfill retirement plans. Young children expect that their parents will be around to say goodnight, or attend their special events, graduation or marriage. Siblings may expect each other to be on the other end of the phone, share holidays or emails.

Those of us who survive the heart attacks of human life are often left weakened, anxious or numb. It may not take a funeral to alter the course of a life. Divorce, betrayal, neglect or other adverse experiences attack hearts. The resulting distrust, fear or anger, drives wedges and walls between people. Isolation brings on further broken body and social systems, resulting in more deaths and loss. For these reasons, Christians are encouraged to share times of sadness and suffering (Romans 12: 15; 2 Corinthians 1:1-7, NIV). Community can provide strength and prayers when we are feeling speechless and weak.

After my mother’s death, I attended six weeks of a local hospital’s grief support group facilitated by a friend chaplain. As a people helper, I wanted to make sure I was attending to my own loss. It wasn’t easy to hear other people’s grief stories yet such a group can be a safe place to process sadness, anger, or confusion with spiritual guidance. After the deaths of my father and father-in-law, our families found that sharing remembrances and stories with loved ones was comforting.

For those of us who find compassion and hope in Scriptures, the Bible has verses that speak to times of grief and mourning. Prophetically we see the coming Messiah mentioned in Isaiah 61:1-4: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn…” The most famous grief promise is probably from The Beatitudes of Matthew 5:4 : “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Jesus offers promises of victory over death for all who accept his love: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going,” John 14:1-4. Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection offer heart healing in John 16:22, “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”

I believe God designed us for sustained, eternal relationships and that is why death is so painful. Our heart bonds have been attacked and we cry, “This separation is so wrong, so unjust.” Deaths are reminders and symbols of all that sin robs from us, and our own painful separation from the God of love. We taste the death of Jesus Christ–our child, father, brother and lover. Then through Jesus’ resurrection our heart rhythms are being restored to health in coherence with his.

I pray that soon we shall rise to know the reality of Rev. 21:4: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:

1. What kind of “heart attack” have you suffered?

2. Do you agree that we were designed for eternal life? Why or why not.

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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