God is with us — always. God’s love for us is limitless and persistent. God’s goodness and mercy prevail. In Scripture we read that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). We know that God is present in every aspect of life. God, through Jesus, knows pain and suffering and death. But through Jesus, we know resurrection. It can be difficult to see, but this faith helps us find that God is with us — even in oppression and injustice, even in the greatest pain and loss.
You might be surprised to learn that Christians today talk about heaven and hell much more than the Bible does. It is understandable to try and determine what will happen to us and our loved ones after death. What is heaven? Is hell real? Who is “in” and who is “out”? The answers to these questions are in God’s hands, not ours. Theologians have grappled with these questions for centuries and have arrived at various interpretations and insights. Many leaders in our church point out that we do not need to speculate about the afterlife. We do know that it is not our job to divide, sort or draw the lines by which we, or others, will be judged. We are free to focus on serving one another following Jesus’ example of abundance, justice and peace.
Suffering is part of the human experience — bad things happen. As we move through life, we encounter injustice, loss, fear and pain. It is a fact that humans make choices that cause each other troubles and sorrows. But there are also natural disasters and tragedies. The question of why bad things happen is honest and real. The ELCA doesn’t pretend to have easy answers, but God is with us through all of it. The resurrection of Jesus teaches us hope, and when we turn to God, we experience God’s grace in times of need.
Pastors, deacons and chaplains are prepared to walk with people and provide support in a time of loss and grief. The church provides a place for worship and also for counsel. Pastors, deacons and chaplains can be with people in homes, hospitals and other care facilities to offer prayer, guidance and insight. Familiar with the processes of medical institutions and funerals, they are available at times of illness, trauma and death. Find a local congregation.