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Grief and Faith

Geese flying South for the winter

When my dad passed away, my grandfather Rev. Kenneth H. Simpson, a minister and one of the kindest people I’ve ever known, shared with me an excerpt from his book “Earthly Stories, Heavenly Truths.” He explored the importance of faith especially in times of grief and the compelling reason he has such a strong faith. It gave me a sense of peace reading his words and I wanted to share with others in case they are struggling to find or maintain their faith after a loss. My grandfather has since passed away, but his words still ring true and can hopefully provide you with the same sense of peace they gave me. He wrote:

Our faith is the knowledge that God will not lead us into the valley of death, but the assurance that he “leads us through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23). With his help we know we will get through our deepest darkness and “we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This is our faith, but for those who may need more evidence, I share this final story.

One summer as I prepared to lead the Vacation Church School at South New Berlin, I was driving along a highway and saw a sign, “Ducks for Sale.” I stopped and discovered a farmer had two wild ducks no more than two or three days old. I purchased them and made a wire pen to house them and thus had a special treat for the boys and girls during the next two weeks as we studied about God’s creation. These fine feathered friends were a hit with all.

When the school was over I sought a more suitable home for them where they would have access to fresh water. Maysie and Benny Wells graciously offered to take them to their farm. So my ducks found themselves along a little stream that flowed into a lovely lake surrounded by green grass and lovely trees. It was a serene and happy place for my special friends. As the summer gave way to fall, the ducks moved further down stream until they made their abode on the lake. The nights became cooler and the air more crisp as Jack Frost began to nip at the trees turning them to yellow, red, and orange. Above the lake the geese began their annual journey southward. Then it happened! One brisk, fall day my ducks flapped their wings and were soon airborne. Into the blue sky they soared and circled the farm house and the old barn as if to bid farewell. Then after a moment’s hesitation, they flew due south into the unknown.

Who told them there was a South to which they could take refuge from winter’s cold blasts and dark days? As far as we know they had never been taught by another duck to believe in the South. But somehow, miraculously there was an innate, inner prompting of the spirit that pulled them ever so forcefully to believe there was a home to which they could go. Of course, we know that their faith was requested by the reality of a warm, protected South.

I came to recognize this as a parable about the hope of eternity and the assurance of heaven. From the time of creation until the present, human beings have always had an inner, innate belief and abiding faith that there is a heaven to which we go at the end of life. It doesn’t matter from which part of the world we have come or how primitive or sophisticated we are, human beings have always had a belief in life after death. Somehow, the Creator has placed into each the inner voice that calls us to believe that there is an “eternal South” to which we go to escape the cold, harsh reality of death, just as He placed into the ducks the faith that there was a home waiting for them that fall day. Would it not have been a cruel hoax if God had placed in my ducks the longing for and the belief in a South, and then not provided for the fulfillment of that dream? Likewise, would it not be the Creator’s supreme hoax if He placed into His creatures a desire for and belief in a life after death and then not made provisions for its reality? But we know that God is faithful and good. The fact that we humans universally believe there is something beyond life is to me a most compelling argument for the belief in eternity.

Therefore, even though we take the hand of death daily, we know it is but a temporary walk through the valley that leads to the triumphant journey to “the South” –our paradise.

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