The Christian & The Death of a Loved One by Peter Jeffery – A Brief Review


Over the next couple of weeks or so I plan on reviewing two small booklets and a short book on grieving. All three are Christian books.

The first one I’ll be reviewing is ‘The Christian and the Death of a Loved One’ by Peter Jeffery. It’s produced privately by Peter so to get copies you will need to contact him through his website.

Some of you will know that my wonderful wife Sue went to Glory at the end of November 2015 and so this is the context in which I write.

The booklet is super short (16 pages A5), about the length of a chapter in a book with a few headings and could be read very easily in about half an hour or so. Short and easy to read is good. Some sections are only a few paragraphs so there is little waffle and the writing is straight to the point as you would expect. The Headings are:

Sorrow and Comfort
The Comfort of Friends
The God of All Comfort
The Believers Unbelief
Resurrection (1)
Do You Believe This?
God is in Control
Resurrection (2)

There are several helpful quotes, but for me, the most helpful by far, is from William Hendrickson in the section ‘God of All Comfort’. It reads as follows:

‘In the heart of Martha the darkness of grief and the light of hope were engaged in deadly combat. Sometimes her lips gave expression to her near despair, then again to her optimism. Here is a woman, deeply emotional. But, here is also a disciple of Jesus, her soul filled with reverence for her Lord. Here is, consequently, a heart, stirred to its depths, and swaying between grief and hope.’

That is my current experience. So it’s comforting to know I’m not going crazy even though at times it feels like it.

In places Peter was a little too stern I thought, but on the other hand it wouldn’t be helpful to overly molly coddle someone, even someone in the midst of grief. The most important thing the grieving person needs to hear is the truth of the Gospel. That doesn’t mean you batter them with Gospel Truth, but hear its truth they must, and as sensitively and as loving as possible.

It could be a bit over prescriptive at times; for example, expecting the grieving believer to fully have the fear of death removed. They may well experience this full assurance but we shouldn’t assume it. By assuming it, the emotions of the believer, already in turmoil, could do without the added burden of wondering if they have a true faith or not. They may have already thought that anyway so be careful.

The strength of the booklet by a mile is that it constantly points the believer to Christ and the Gospel wherein lies our hope. ‘To whom else shall we go’ said Peter to Jesus, ‘you alone have the words of eternal life’. We are also directed to the fact that God is in Control – even if in the midst of our grief it doesn’t feel like it. We are taken ultimately to the Resurrection with the knowledge that The Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death! We can have confidence that our believing loved one is with Christ which is far better.

For a brief booklet it is well written and packed full. It is quite general though, so don’t expect it to answer every question or address every issue but nevertheless it’s well worth reading. I would recommend reading it alongside something else, maybe one of the others I’ll be reviewing.

Would I recommend giving this to someone in the midst of grieving over a loved one? Yes I would. The positive Gospel emphasis and some excellent quotes make up for a few limitations. The booklet will help give you that Gospel focus. Just be sure you read it before giving it to someone.

Be discerning. But let me just say, please please don’t then keep asking if they have read the particular book / booklet / leaflet / tract or whatever YOU gave them. Just simply pray that God would guide them and be their comfort.

Finally, be aware, the grieving person has their senses heightened to an extraordinary level. They may feel things in a completely different way to how they did before entering the grieving process. They will hear your words but may not have a clue how to respond. So don’t expect too much of them and although you want to help don’t put the burden on them to either make decisions, answer your probing questions or make you feel better.

That’s the first of the three reviews.

Diary of a Grieving Christian – 2 (Someone Died Last night)

I’ve been challenged (in my own mind) about how I’m going to do these. I will have to be honest about how I feel, otherwise, they will be of no use. I’ll also need to discuss at some point along the way about how things feel and about how they actually are. So there’s going to be some theology along the way too.

The other thing is, I’m not sure how many or how often I will do these but following is a post I started some while ago when someone died in the next room. This has present relevance as you will see from my comment at the end.

Someone died last evening and I have to say it was quite distressing. Sue has been at the Hospice since Monday but is hoping to leave today (Thursday 2/4/15) and I will pick her up straight after work. We are just talking together when all off a sudden there was a lot of nurses running in the corridor followed shortly by a terrible sound of wailing and crying. It was distressing for Sue because she didn’t want us to be like that. I said ‘its right and normal to be upset but we don’t grieve as others that have no hope’. I got the sense that the death in the next room was a hopeless one. I may be wrong but that grief was a hopeless grief. In fact, I said ‘that is the sound of despair’. Sue was again reminded of her death. I then read Mr Spurgeon for that evening – a gospel message. I then prayed with Sue and Lydia. We hugged. All the while the sound of crying and loud wailing was coming from the corridor and the room next door. It was about 8.00. PM. Sue wants to die at home. And I want to make it happen for her. I am sad when I think she will not be with me. We planned on getting old together. The Lord has another plan. I haven’t cried in a while, but I will. Sue said ‘I want to die at home in the presence of God’. I’d like to think the lady that died did that – but I don’t think so.

That was never posted, until now. But as I read it now…. Sue did die at home in the presence of God. And it was a death FULL of Hope. We watched her take her very last breath in this life and she was gone. I then stood at the end of the bed with my daughter and said ‘remember the lady and her family at the hospice, this isn’t like that at all’. We wept. But we wept in hope. [I’ll have to do a brief post on Hope because what the Bible means by Hope isn’t what the world means: there is quite literally a world of difference.] You can see how relevant the post is now – as I can. We thank God for His Grace.

Where we are all headed

Winfield Cemetery

Went to the funeral yesterday. Back at work a couple of people asked how it went. I sort of had in mind the succinct answer – ‘Jesus Christ was at the centre and so it was a service full of hope.’ There’s very little hope around today – or that’s how it can seem given the world in which we live. In some ways a funeral is the last place you would expect to find hope but actually if we can’t find it there in the face of death we are just kidding ourselves. Trevor spoke well of his Mum and spoke more so of the Saviour. It was mentioned that Bronwen had a simple uncomplicated faith and probably had difficulty in articulating it. She couldn’t really engage in theological discussion but had nevertheless pre-arranged her funeral hymns. The striking feature of her hymn choices was this – they were all about her Saviour Jesus. Being dead she yet speaks volumes and so even in her death she is a great example of faith. Trevor said she had a simple faith – ‘and that’s the best kind isn’t it!’ It’s a faith that’s enviable. You will not be surprised to know that Trevor is a fine preacher of the Gospel – though not preaching here did preach at my Fathers funeral.

Where we are all headed

Looking down into the grave I was able – again – to see my own end. The end of life on earth as we know it anyway – but not the end of life. There’s a hymn that has the line ‘not the grave but the sky is our goal’ speaking of when The Lord Jesus Christ returns in Glory to gather to himself all those that have trusted in Him and His redeeming work and to judge the world.

The cemetery where we sang ‘Jesus, Jesus all sufficient being telling is thy worth’ is the same one where my mother and father are buried.

Mum & Dad

Here’s a picture of their gravestone. I have been to several funerals and there are many believers buried in this place. Every time there’s a burial several comment on what a day it will be when the dead in Christ shall rise to meet their Saviour – and there are a lot of them at Winfield Cemetery!

Knowing where we are all headed should cause us, now, to place our trust in Christ, the only hope for sinners. Without a Saviour you will have to stand before the Judgement on your own.  Think about that. No matter how good your example in this life, they will be of no use in that day. That why we need an Advocate with the Father – this we have in Jesus and no other.

Perspectives on Death

Yesterday I observed two quite different perspectives on death. Both the deaths of elderly people. One I knew, the other I didn’t.

How you doin? ‘Oh it’s a bit weird, my Nan died yesterday and it feels a bit strange. I don’t know. It’s all weird. But I guess that’s life’. I didn’t know her and I don’t know the person I spoke to that well.

The other I knew and her son is a very good friend of mine. ‘Mike, she’s gone, she’s gone home. She hasn’t gone down – she’s gone up. The family was all there at the end, it was powerful’.

And by powerful he meant God was in the situation. Maybe it doesn’t come across so well but it seems to me that one is at best resignation to a sad fact, and hopeless. The other, filled with hope through the Gospel of Jesus.

It doesn’t matter who we are, our background, wealth, position, you name it, we all have to pass the way of death. Will your end be hopeless or full of hope? And just so there’s no misunderstanding – the Bible uses the word hope with confident certainty.