The Comfort in our Grief

This is our pastor’s article for the July-August edition of our congregational newsletter.

 

The Apostle Paul directs us not to be unaware about those who left this life trusting in God.  Why?  “So you will not grieve like others, as those without hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).  So we are reminded, once more, of this sobering certainty: The death of someone we love saddens and hurts us.

The death of another causes us to mourn—yet our grief is different from the rest of the world.  How so?  The God-become-flesh joins Himself to those whom He brings into His Church, which is divine union stronger than any death.  So in Christ, eternal life trumps death!

Now, today, the fulfillment of this still awaits us, which is why we “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).  What we undergo now is compared to “a reflection in a mirror.”  Not so after we rise from the dust, which the Bible expresses as being with God, “face-to-face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

So, we weep, each in his own way.  Did not Jesus also do so after Lazarus died (John 11:35)?  Yes!  This means a funeral does not somehow turn into a “victory celebration,” empty of sadness.  For Jesus did not celebrate Lazarus’ death but ached in anguish!

A few minutes passed, and then He raises Lazarus from death.  In doing do, Jesus points us to the real triumph—the body called away from the debris of our death into life everlasting (John 11:25, 33-34)!  Still today, God gives us “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

The death of someone is never a reason to rejoice, for God never created us to die.  The reason death can claim us is because of sin’s carnage inside us.  Now, through “wordsmithing,” we may try to deny the reality of death by not using the word “funeral” and calling it a “celebration,” instead.  To reject something through a verbal smokescreen, however, does not change reality.

In honesty, admit the heartache of death, which takes our breath away.  Not to do so is living in denial.  Yes, we grieve, but we do not allow our sadness to rob us of the assurance Jesus provides to us.  For our returning Lord will reunite our souls with perfected, resurrected bodies!  Yes, on the Last Day, death will be swallowed up in the victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).  The Almighty Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit, will call forth the dead from their graves.

So, if someone tells you not to shed tears after a person you love dies, don’t listen.   Such words are nonsense and go against the truth God teaches us.  Consider Jesus.  Didn’t He hurt inside because Lazarus lay in the tomb (John 11:35)?  Yes!  The prophet Elisha also tore his clothing when mourning Elijah’s passing—after God took him straight into His glorious presence (2 Kings 2:12).

Before Jesus’ returns on the Last Day, when someone dies, only his soul is in heaven, not his body.  Now, if the soul with God is no more in this vale of sorrow, why do we still feel sad if the person we love is in a “better place”?  Here’s why—because we still experience loss.

Underneath our sorrow, however, we anticipate the reunion to come in all eternity.  This undergirds us even while we grieve.  In Spirit-given belief, we recognize God’s promises are true.  So, united to our Redeemer’s dying and rising through baptism, his resurrection to life become ours (Romans 6:3-5).  The Lord’s salvation for us is not only for our souls but also for our bodies!

“The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.”  The day this happens, Jesus will raise our fallen flesh, with those still alive also called to come before Him.  “First, the dead in Christ will ascend, followed by us who are still alive, who will be carried up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the sky.  In this way, we will always be with the Lord.  So, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

The resurrection is our real solace.  For our current body, corrupted and infected with sin, will betray us, which is why we age, become ill, and die.  Not so when our Savior returns!  What we stare at in the mirror failing before us each day is not our eternal reality.  For death cannot break our fellowship with God.  The Savior’s solution for our flesh, which will die in death, is a recreated one, which will rise and soar in triumph at His return.

So, we console one another with words.  Which words?  The spoken Word of how Jesus saves us, which we need!  For never do we outgrow what He did and does to defeat death, proclaimed to us as we journey toward eternity in this failing and fallen world.

Do you now understand why Scripture tells us to gather in assembly, to encourage one other, more so as we find the Day getting closer (Hebrews 10:25)?  When death strikes, you can be ready.  For the Spirit-breathed words of our life-giving Lord will reassure and enliven you.  The Lord will bring you into the fullness of joy unending, which no one can take away.  The sureness of what He will do enables you to cry out this prayer: “Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

 

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