We often forget that this world is not our home. We are passing through by God's design, and one day, we will enter eternal rest with Him for our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). With this
|The Cathedral at Lincolnshire, England|
When we lose a loved one, we grieve. We miss their companionship, their smile, their warm embrace. This is only natural, but we also must remember the admonition that Paul gives in his letter to the Thessalonians. Chapter 4:13 reads: "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." Matthew Henry Commentary explains this portion of Scripture in this manner: "Here is comfort for the relations and friends of those who die in the Lord. Grief for the death of friends is lawful; we may weep for our own loss, though it may be their gain. Christianity does not forbid, and grace does not do away, our natural affections. Yet we must not be excessive in our sorrows; this is too much like those who have no hope of a better life. Death is an unknown thing, and we know little about the state after death; yet the doctrines of the resurrection and the second coming of Christ, are a remedy against the fear of death, and undue sorrow for the death of our Christian friends; and of these doctrines we have full assurance. It will be some happiness that all the saints shall meet, and remain together for ever; but the principal happiness of heaven is to be with the Lord, to see him, live with him, and enjoy him for ever." This is a great explanation we need to take to heart.
According to psychologists (www.psychcentral.com), there are five stages of grief. Not everyone goes through each stage, but this is often seen. First comes denial and isolation. This is a stage where we buffer the shock of loss. It seems like a surreal experience. When we lost our grandson, I told my husband that none of it seemed to be possible. It was as though we were going through the motions, but nothing was real. The second stage is often anger. Our pain is intense as the reality of our loss is evident to us, and we often take out this anger on objects, friends or family. We may not even realize we are doing this, but we tend to wall ourselves off from others. Unfortunately, we often become angry with God. We want to know "why" this person was taken and "why" now? Then, comes the stage of bargaining. In our vulnerability, we think that perhaps if we had done this or that the person would still be living. Guilt raises its ugly head in this stage. We can blame ourselves, a doctor or any other number of factors, but we often forget that God is Sovereign and knows the plans He has for us. We cannot bargain ourselves out of the reality that He chose this time and place to bring a precious one home.
Within the fourth stage of grief, we find depression. It is a sadness and deep regret. Likewise, I have heard it described as anger turned inward. We do not enjoy life as we should and often the best remedy for this is understanding, hugs and allowing ourselves to open up and share our emotions with those we love. Too often, we withdraw from the very people that can bring us comfort, but our healing begins when we open up and tell God exactly how we feel allowing Him to hold us close.
Finally, the fifth stage of grief is acceptance. We come to this place where we focus on the hope and truth of the resurrection. We are able to let go of our loved one knowing they are in the happiest, best place they could ever be. This is what Paul indicated in his letter to the Thessalonians. Those without Christ have no hope of ever seeing their loved ones again. We, who are in Christ, have a sure promise even though now we grieve for a time. We WILL be reunited with our loved ones who have died in Christ.
Before my father died at the age of 63, he told my mother that he saw this beautiful city and the streets were gold. He said it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. I believe he was describing heaven (found in Revelation 21). This was a comforting thought for me. I know I will see him again one day, and that has given me joy in the times when I miss him. I still cry on occasion even though it has been years since his death. However, I have hope in Christ.
Since we do not know the hour or day when God will take us or a loved one home, we must make the most of every moment we have. Certainly, Dr. Sproul never expected his mother to die when she did; yet, I cannot imagine a better time for her to leave than after the joy of a grandchild being born into this world. Death is a reality we all have to face. Therefore, we need to enjoy every contact we have with family and friends. If we make the most of every gathering, we will not feel guilt when they are gone. Likewise, we need to know that God in His complete sovereignty over life and death knows the best time to take a saint home. Do we trust Him? Can we bow to His infinite wisdom? Often our reaction to His sovereign action in taking a loved one will reveal to us just how firm our faith in Him really is. His plans are often a mystery to us which we cannot know by any means. Thus, we must seek Him and His Word for comfort. As we do, the peace which passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Lets not waste a moment in loving on family and friends while we have the opportunity. Tomorrow might be too late for this life, but we know and have hope that we will be together again in Christ for eternity. The Word of God promises this. Selah!