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Our Grief Will Turn to Joy

By Pastor Ho Wei Liang (Orchard Road Presbyterian Church) “Please pray for Jethro, he’s had an accident and is in ICU now.” The pastoral team received this message while we were having our weekly pastoral staff meeting. After the meeting, I rushed to the hospital and there I saw a youth—who only a few days ago had been full of life as he joined his peers to read and meditate on God’s Word in community—lying on a bed in the Intensive Care Unit. His parents and extended family were distraught. The news hit the church hard, both adults and youth, as we sent out the call for prayer, asking the church to come together and pray for Jethro.

The abrupt shock quickly turned into draining grief when early the next morning, our son and brother was called home to our Lord. Indeed, we were still reeling in confusion when news of Jethro’s demise sounded out. It felt like the earth had given way beneath our feet. These words from Psalm 46:2-3 surely describe how we are feeling, even now, “The earth give(s) way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea… its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

How did it happen? How can such a thing happen? Why did it happen, God? There were many questions but no answers. While trying to find our footing in this sea of loss and sorrow, we found our words so hollow as we tried to offer hope and remind each other of God’s continuing faithfulness and goodness. As a parent myself, I cannot imagine the anguish and shock at losing your child so suddenly. Yet as members of Christ’s body, we could only do what we can—to come together and grieve in solidarity alongside Jethro’s parents, to lament that death has taken yet another of ours.

This time, a young and promising life was cut short without warning—one who loved God and is loved by Him; one who had given much to and received much from those around him. I will always remember Jethro as the youth whose faith was as steady as his character. A constant presence in our youth ministry, he served his peers and the church, not only with the musical gifts given him, but also with his ministry of presence and encouragement to all around him.

We know that death doesn’t come according to age. Youth does not disqualify anyone for death. Yet, when death comes to a person so young, with so much that lies ahead for him, with so many dreams unrealised, the grief we feel is profound. It’s like eagerly anticipating how a story would unfold when at its beginning chapters and then turning the next page only to find it abruptly ended. It feels as if we have been robbed, cruelly denied from sharing the journey that lay ahead for Jethro. This journey would no doubt have been filled with numerous joys, sorrows, and milestones, yet we will not see a single one of them and will not celebrate them with him.

The world is now in a great time of disruption. Plans are delayed, dreams are put on hold, projects and dreams are interrupted. Yet there is no greater disruptor than death. It leaves forever incomplete all the tasks of whom it takes. It leaves a gaping hole in the hearts of the many who love Jethro. Every time the Puah family gathers for a meal, every time his class comes together, every time his church peers congregate for youth meetings, his absence will be felt.

The grief and sorrow we feel is real, yet we do not grieve without hope. As the beginning of Psalm 46 assures us, we need not fear even as the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, for “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” God is with us and He is for us. In His Son, we have life that death cannot hold. The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead also lives in us and will give us life on that Day. And on that Day, we shall see Jethro again, along with all the faithful departed. We shall live together once more and enjoy together that sweet and full communion with God! Maranatha!

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