The last year has been hard not just in the sense of COVID-inflicted economic losses for nations, businesses and individuals but the more painful loss of family and friends.

Globally, millions of people have succumbed to this deadly virus, overshadowing the loss of loved ones whose deaths are linked to other causes. My mum was one of those who belonged to the latter category. During my travel for the funeral, I visited a friend whom I had been told had been ill for a while. We had a wonderful time of fellowship and prayer and she even gave me a gift towards my mum’s funeral expenses. Last weekend, I received the shocking news that she had gone to be with the Lord. I did not realise when I went to visit her, that it would be the last time I would be seeing her.

Except you have been living in a cave over the last few days, you would have heard or read the news about the death of Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of the queen of England, at the age of 99. You might say, ‘Oh well, he was old, people shouldn’t be surprised’ However, when you consider the fact that the Queen had lived with this man for over 70 years, you will probably think how that loss would affect her and the rest of the family.

A few weeks ago, I read in the news of 19-year old Richard Okorogheye who was declared missing. I don’t think I have prayed for any other missing person like I did for this young man, that he would be found alive and well especially since I read that he had sickle cell disease. My heart broke when it was reported a few days ago that he had been found dead in a pond in Essex, England.

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and heartache his mother must be going through. Questions are being asked as to how he ended up in a pond, why he left home without a jacket and no money. The police have ruled his death as ‘unexplained’.

While I have no answer for those who are mourning at the moment; that includes me, I can confidently affirm that there is a God who comforts those who mourn. The Psalmist declared, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking right now, whether it is the Queen of England or the family of my friend far away in Africa. He understands the pain and loss that we feel. He doesn’t just say, ‘My thoughts and prayers are with you’ or ‘Sorry for your loss’ as we often hear people say these days, He is actually right there with us with his arms of comfort around us even if we can’t feel them.

For those of us whose loved ones knew the Lord, we have an encouraging word from Paul the Apostle, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” /1 Thessalonians 4:13-14/ On one hand, we miss our loved ones who died in the faith but on the other hand, we are comforted with the truth that they have gone to be with the Lord and that at some point in the future, we will be reunited with them but not only that, we will be together with the Lord.

I am encouraged by the promise, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelations 21:4) Isn’t that amazing? Knowing that we will live with no fear of death, sickness or pain? No wonder the writer of Revelation prayed, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’ (Revelations 22:20)

I pray for those who are mourning the passing of their loved ones at this time. May you know the warmth of the Lord’s comforting embrace and may His peace overflow in your heart and ease every pain and hurt you are feeling right now and help you to know that He is near.

Be comforted!

Steve Popoola