“A time to be born, And a time to die…”

Ecclesiastes 3:2

Like millions of people around the world my heart broke at the news of the tragic death of Kobe Bryant along with his daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash this past Sunday. I was just finishing up our second service at church when across the screen of my I-pad came the words, “Laker great Kobe Bryant killed today in a helicopter crash.” I was shocked to say the least and tried to dismiss it as being nonsensical. (I don’t normally allow data to be received on my I-pad while I am teaching but I had problems with my computer that morning and left it open for our IT guys to try to fix and send it to me.) I haven’t followed Laker basketball in years but I enjoyed watching Kobe play and appreciated the level at which he performed but the news still rocked my world.

When I got home I immediately turned on the television and watched as the reports came in  that Kobe’s thirteen year old daughter and seven others were on the flight as well. My heart sank even further. Like so many others I just sat there and cried. I hurt for Kobe and his daughter, his wife and remaining three daughters, as well as the other passengers and pilot and the millions of fans who were beginning the painful process of grief.

Tragedy and death have a way of uniting people unlike anything else in this life for the simple reason, like it or not we are all forced to examine our own mortality. Hours after the news had gone around the world groups of people began to gather to comfort and console one another. Groups gathered at Kobe’s high school where he was first discovered here in the United States. They gathered outside at the Staple’s Center in L.A. where he played for the Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team. Many gathered as close as they could to the crash site as well as other locations that Kobe frequented and had spent time. In the shock of the moment many people just didn’t want to be alone so they went to the place (if possible) where they had made a connection with Kobe. They wanted to be around others who understood their pain so they could grieve together. In moments like this I better understand and appreciate why God created the church. A place we can go and connect with others who are like us, sinners in need of a Savior, and people who struggle and need comfort just like each of us do.

People have asked me the last couple of days what my thoughts are on these gatherings and why are so many people responding to this particular tragedy by going to the locations where they feel close to Kobe Bryant. The first thing that came to mind as I watched hundreds of people gathering at different locations as the news spread was "comfort.". The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” The bottom line is people are seeking comfort.

Sports have a way of uniting people together and I enjoyed looking at social media posts of generations of families who supported the Lakers long before Kobe was even born standing alongside their children and grandchildren who were wearing Kobe Bryant jersey’s. One of my fondest memories of my own Dad was going to a Laker basketball game as a young boy to see my hero Jerry West in person and as well through the years sitting with him watching Jerry West play on television. I can still recall vividly the sadness I felt when the Lakers lost a playoff game when I was ten years old and starting to cry. My mom couldn't understand why I was crying over a silly basketball game on television but my dad most definatly did. Our mutual love for sports and the Lakers in particular at that time knit our hearts together. Today, millions of people around the world have had their hearts broken at the news that someone who they watched grow up right before their very eyes (Kobe was drafted by the Lakers right out of high school) and become one of the greatest players in NBA history was taken suddenly from them without even a goodbye, no chance to express their appreciation for the impact his life had on them and their loved ones. Yes, today is a sad day for everyone connected to this tragedy and it’s a long road to recovery for many. My prayers are the comfort of God would be real for those hurting today. 

I’m not sure if you are aware but grief comes in waves, and there are actually stages of grief. No two people grieve exactly alike. It’s important to know that until we can accept fear, anger and sadness as a part of life we cannot grieve. And if we cannot grieve we cannot heal. Shock, denial, pain and guilt, anger along with bargaining, depression, reflection and loneliness must all be accepted on the road of grief leading to healing and hope. There are no shortcuts on the road of suffering. 

I have a large file on my computer titled, “GRIEF” and in it I have a lot of quotes, stories, scripture verses and information dealing with grief and how to get through it. Philippians 4:13 provides me comfort in knowing I can replace the "I Can't" with "I can”. Just know loved one, if you are grieving loss today there is hope, there is help. You for sure are not alone! A few quotes that stood out to me this morning that I pray speak to you are…

"My capacity for grief is a reflection of Him in whose image I am created. My capacity for grief is a reflection of the grief of God"

"God's empathy is not that of a casual observer of our grief but rather a partner to it"

"In the book of Revelation I think the last tear wiped away shall be a tear God brushes from His own eye. Until then, our God weeps with us"

I have a note in my GRIEF file titled, “A Better Kind of Grieving” that serves as a great reminder that there is hope beyond grief!  1 Thessalonians 4:13 reminds us, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” God wants us to grieve but to grieve properly and He both tells us and shows us how.

A Better Kind of Grieving

1. The world says, Bury Your Feelings. God says feel your feelings
2. The world says, Replace Your losses. (Run from your pain). God says review the loss. Feel the effects. Write about it reflectively, pray about it, slow down, not speed up.  
3. The world says Grieve Alone. God says grieve in community. (After Jesus death the disciples gathered together in an upper room).
4. The world says Time heals all wounds. God says, only the Holy Spirit can truly heal. The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter. The wounds heal but the scars remain.
5. The world says we must Live with Regret. God says, share your regrets, express them. We can make peace on our side of the equation. Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."
6. The world says Never Trust Again. God says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you"

Some things to think about when you or someone you know is hurting from the loss of someone you or they love. Just know, you aren’t alone and like point number 6 shares, you are never alone because God has promised, “ I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Turn to Jesus in your pain and sorrow and experience comfort like only He can provide!  

“Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

1 Thessalonians 4:18


Michael Osthimer





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