“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” —Galatians 6.2
The recent account of Tim Bosma’s death has been sad to hear and to see unfold. A resident of Ancaster, Ontario, Bosma mysteriously disappeared after he accompanied two men who had come to test-drive a truck he was selling. His body was found, burned beyond recognition, on a farm near Ayr, Ontario. So far, one man is under arrest for his murder. [Since the writing of this article, two men have been charged with his murder.]
By all accounts, Mr. Bosma was not a typical murder victim. He was a man of Christian faith, active in his church community and not involved with the “wrong people.” Why was he killed?
It is hoped that the answers will come out in court. What I found especially interesting about the situation as it developed, though, was the role that Bosma’s faith community played. After the announcement that his body had been found and when Mrs. Bosma spoke to the media, who was standing behind her?
Her family, yes, as one would hope and expect. And her pastor.
That spoke volumes to me.
It didn’t have to be her pastor; it could have been her small group leader or a close Christian friend. Either way, her faith community was part of her support network. They were there for her in her time of trial.
When we go through a life crisis, most of us don’t have it displayed before the world via the press. Mrs. Bosma had little choice but to go public with her grief; because of the mainstream media and social media, which put up a remarkable campaign to help find her husband, her difficulties were widely known. Most people experience their grief, pain, and problems without such obvious support.
This is especially poignant for followers of Jesus. When we have a whole community of love surrounding us, why do we keep our troubles to ourselves? I fear too often that there is a tacit culture that says “be happy” in the church. Or there may be a culture that says, “We don’t know what to do when you grieve, so please keep it to yourself”—and that’s just wrong.
The word church, literally means “those called out” from the world who are to love and serve Jesus Christ and his kingdom—and to love and serve his people. We are not isolated individuals; we are a community. God calls us to look after each other, even when we don’t know what to do or say. When Mrs. Bosma spoke to the media, her pastor stood behind her. He didn’t say anything, and he didn’t have to say anything. We have no idea what he might have said to her privately—nor is it our business to know—but his mere presence spoke of the significance of a community of faith that wanted to rally behind one of its own that was grieving.
When you are going through a difficult time, do you feel safe enough to share it with your church leaders? With your small group? With the friends with whom you sip coffee after worship? Of course, we do well also to ask if your church community creates a culture of safety for you to share your trials. Ironically, in an era of unprecedented connectedness via the Internet, we remain, largely, a disconnected society. People long for a place of safety, with real people who might not have all the answers but who serve a God who is big enough to know the answers and personal enough to care. Those real people are called the church.
How is your church doing in that regard? Is it a safe place to share?
And are you willing to share your burdens? Give it a try. Hopefully, you will experience the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Spirit.
Rev. Dr. Jeff Loach is pastor of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Nobleton, Ontario, and an adjunct instructor in spiritual formation at Tyndale Seminary, Toronto.