Dakota Howard

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Someone has said, “God never wastes our sorrows.”

Just outside our town, on a winding Highway 30, Dakota Howard tragically died when the road collapsed. He was only twenty-two. Many others across America have recently died because of flooding rains. But this Dakota is from our community. Around here, the grief is real and deep.

I didn’t know Dakota personally, but I attended his funeral. I marveled at the community support, and I can’t forget the bewildered faces of hundreds of stunned mourners—many silent and others fumbling for words. The funeral was at his church and several pastors gave good testimonies of Dakota’s faith in Christ. Yet there are still questions.

Elizabeth Groves suggests: “We worship a big God…We are in his hands, and nothing happens to us by chance. That’s good news. But in grief, if that is all we remember about God, it might actually make the pain worse…” 2 Corinthians 1(above) can point us in a helpful direction. They are not easy words, but they can move our emotions forward with God’s perspective and comfort.

First, the subject in our grief is God, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” To “bless God in all our afflictions” is to offer honor and recognition—to give a good word (“benediction”) about and to our Creator-Savior-comforting God. The Psalms help us pray this way.

In 2 Corinthians 1, the Spirit of God chooses God’s mercy and care/comfort. We wonder: How is there mercy and care by God in tragedy and grief? In part, God has been there—here—and understands. Isaiah 63:9, my favorite verse of last year, says about God, “In all their affliction he was afflicted.” And, Jesus is Immanuel—God with us. Also consider: the Psalmist reminds us “God is good and does good.” Finally, though tragedies are mysterious, our grief as followers of Christ is not without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We know, for instance, the Holy Spirit has been sent as “another comforter” (literally, He has come alongside us). We have God! It may not come quickly, but the way of hope and comfort begins with a right focus on God.

Second, God never wastes our sorrows. There is purposeful new direction in tragedy and God’s comfort, “So that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Now, family and friends of Dakota can minister to others who need comfort from God—because, like God and with God, they have been there.

Grief compels us to God and others in need, and therein comes comfort.

Rhea Herald-News, January 4, 2016

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