As part of the pastoral labor my wife and I do a fair bit of pre-marital counseling. As we were doing some more of such counseling this Fall I remembered hearing, while in college, a recording of Pastor E. V. Hill preaching his wife’s funeral. It was a powerful sermon filled with insight and anecdotal wisdom on marriage and parenting. Since I have lost the tape I had of the sermon I searched youtube and was delighted to find that the sermon is available there. It is found in two parts and is well worth listening to.
The sermon was preached in 1987 and is titled “My Wife’s Death in Biblical Perspective.” His text was Job 1:21, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Throughout the sermon he refers to his wife with the name he called her, “Baby.” He explains at the beginning of the sermon that he did not choose to preach her funeral to display special strength; rather, he said, “I stand fulfilling a task my member asked of me.” His wife, one of his church members, asked him to preach her funeral so he did so.
The first part of the sermon (all of part 1 and into part 2) Hill expounds “The Lord giveth” in reference to his wife as a gift from God. He said, “In my wife He gave a great gift.” Along the way he acknowledged the labors of his wife’s parents in raising a godly pure woman. In this section he digresses to talk about parents’ (especially fathers’) roles in selecting spouses for their children (about 2:55-6:50 in part 1). The story of him turning away from his door a young man who had come to see his daughter is classic. It is a good example of fathering well and is humorously told. Hill told the congregation plainly, “some of these relationships have to be broken up!” This was no passive fathering! He also said, “You can’t get no race horses out of mules!” He goes on to encourage male headship and to extol the femininity of his wife.
At the end of Part 1 and beginning of Part 2 (you can just pick up at the beginning of Part 2) he tells a couple of stories to illustrate his statement, “She was my protector.” These stories move me even as I listen to them for the 50th time. He tells about a time when he took on a business venture that she had warned against and then he lost a large sum of money in it. She did not berate him or hold it over his head. Rather, in a very touching way she extolled his virtues rather than his failings. At another time when they did not have enough money she did not complain but tried to obscure the fact that their lights had been cut off by setting up a candle light dinner. Of these instances he stated: “She could have broken me at that point. … she could have broken my spirit … and demoralized me.” But instead she supported him and believed in him. There is also the story of how she sought to protect him from a death threat by placing herself in the way (you’ll have to listen to it).
Lastly, he takes up “the Lord taketh away” (about 4:30 in Part 2) making the important point that a sign of Christian maturity is being able to say “Blessed be the name of the Lord” not only when the Lord gives but also when He takes away. This is such an important point. Then as he repeatedly shouts “Blessed,” it seems to me that he is right there practicing what he is preaching, blessing the Lord in that moment acknowledging that the Lord had indeed taken away the wonderful gift He had given in Mrs. Hill. The sermon closes in a moving anticipation of heaven.
I could listen to this sermon over and over. It means a lot to me for various reasons not least because I have been blessed with a wife who has supported me in similar ways. This model and message needs to be shared. So I encourage you to listen to this sermon and pass it along to others.