The Courage to Love | Bible study

 

The Courage to Love

Rev. Sharon Hollis

Synod of Victoria and Tasmania

 

Just over five years ago, two police came to my door to tell me my beloved partner Michael had died by suicide. My world as I knew it came to an end. One of the things that continues to amaze me about the couple of days after Michael’s death was the number of friends and family who came to my house to sit with me, to comfort me.

 

Grief is raw, and it takes courage to go to someone who is grieving. It takes even more courage to stay with a grieving person, reading their needs, talking when they want to talk and staying silent when they need that. Crying, laughing, howling, praying with the grieving one – these are acts of courageous solidarity. I continue to be grateful to those who came and who were not overcome by the grief in our house. Such loving, courageous accompaniment brought me comfort and hope. It gave me the assurance that I was not alone. These faithful friends and family were bearers of God’s love, reminding me that God had not abandoned me.

 

One of the decisions I had to make in the hours after Michael’s death was what I would say about the nature of his death. I was aware of the stigma of suicide and fearful of how his death might cause people to judge him or me. Would I be brave enough to tell the truth or would I allow the fear of stigma to keep me silent? I chose the truth and have not regretted it, even when the blunt truth makes people feel awkward or they say something inappropriate or hurtful. The truth means I am never ashamed of Michael and don’t spend time weaving half-truths.

 


Bible study

 

Read 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 ‘The Gift of Love’

 

We hear it read at many weddings. But do we also think of the love demonstrated by Jesus when we hear it?

 

Reflection

 

The reading I chose for Michael’s funeral was 1 Corinthians 13. I chose it because I knew I needed to be reminded that love would companion me through my grief, that while my grief was deep and profound, God’s love would not be defeated by it. I knew I needed to be reassured that no matter how hopeless and pointless Michael’s death seemed, he was held through it by a love that endured with him through death and brought him home to eternal life.

 

As great as 1 Corinthians 13 is for weddings, we rob it of its power when we limit our understanding of love to that of a married couple. The love Paul speaks of is best understood in the life of Jesus.

 

As Christians, we can have confidence that love bears all things, believes all things and endures all things because the love of God wore human flesh in Jesus Christ. Love taught radical welcome and unearned forgiveness. Love wept at the death of friend and called the sick back to life. Love endured the cross, bearing all human injustice, suffering and sin. Love rose again that we might know that love is not defeated.

 

Love continues to live in our midst, companioning with us through suffering, standing with victims, resisting evil and being in solidarity with the poor. I learnt in the days after Michael’s death that faith and hope are made real in acts of love that are gifts of God’s love.

 

Going Global 🌏

 

Among some of Timor Leste’s poorest families in the mountainous interior region, we met Maria and her family. Recovering from tuberculosis with the encouragement and support of the local clinic, who see their care as an expression of God’s love for their community, Maria told us what gave her the courage to keep living when for many, a diagnosis of tuberculosis is a death sentence.

 

Watch the third Lent Event video, ‘The Courage to Love’

 

 “Hope has two beautiful daughters: anger at the way things are, and the courage to see that they do not remain the same.”

 

This quote from Augustus of Hippo sums up the approach of so many people who live with diseases that are the product of poverty. Maria told us that while at first she felt anger and despair, asking herself why she should suffer when she had so much to do and so many to care for, she ultimately found the courage to take action because of the love of her family and the love of her God.

 

 

Take Action

 

Pray

 

  • For those who suffer and for those who have the courage to respond with love and hope.
  • Give thanks for those who work on the front line of suicide prevention and response; for the open sharing of Rev. Sharon Hollis’s story and all those who stood with her and opened God’s love to her.
  • For people everywhere who are God’s love in so many ways and who provide people with the courage they need to live through the unthinkable.
  • For families like Maria’s, who each day experience challenges we find it difficult to imagine, and who together draw on their faith in God and each other to bring about healing and hope.