Death hurts. A lot! The testimony of Scripture and of Christians during the last 2000+ years is that believing in Jesus does not eliminate grief. Death is an enemy.
Whether it’s the death of a loved one or some other serious loss, the Bible has a lot to say about death and grief.
This week my new book The Christian’s Journey Through Grief is officially released. I’d like to share some Scriptures for the journey through grief, and a few brief thoughts that are woven throughout this book. I think you’ll find them encouraging and helpful if you’re wrestling with loss and grief right now.
“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
Grief may be especially painful for the believer. God’s love has softened our hearts to the point that we care and love more, so the pain of death is especially excruciating. Deep grief is the price of great love.
Yes, we grieve. But we grieve differently.
As Christians, we experience excruciating pain and irrepressible hope at the same time.
It’s OK to hurt. And it’s OK to hope.
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)
God sees you with compassion as you are grieving. Jesus understands your human limitations.
Give yourself the kind of grace God extends to you as you journey through grief. You are a human being, with physical, emotional, and mental limitations.
When others are busy or preoccupied, He’s always available. When it seems you’re all alone in your grief, remember that He is there, whether or not you can see and feel Him.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Jesus is not simply up in heaven doing other important business in the universe; YOU are His business. And through His Holy Spirit He is right there with you this very minute.
You may not always feel Him with you. Grief can cloud your ability to sense His presence just like the clouds obscure the sun. But He is still there.
In your darkest moments, simply pause and invite Him to be with you right then.
“So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. … Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”” (John 11:20-21, 32)
The death of a loved one usually brings up questions about God, faith, life, death, heaven, hell, eternity, and more. Whatever your previous relationship with God, walking through grief may challenge aspects of your faith.
In 21st century English, Mary and Martha were asking Jesus, WHY?
Asking WHY doesn’t mean you’ve lost your faith. Bring your questions to God. You won’t make Him mad at you. Doing so can often lead to an even deeper relationship with Him going forward.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-16)
After the death of his wife C.S. Lewis wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” (A Grief Observed).
Human beings naturally fear death. That’s part of the power the enemy attempts to wield over us. And grief itself often brings fear.
Remember that Jesus voluntarily entered the open jaws of death, walked up to the keeper of the prison-house of the grave, and wrested the keys of death from his hands. And then He walked out of His own grave, leading a train of freed captives behind Him.
Yes, friend, death is a defeated foe. While your feelings of fear are understandable, you don’t have to remain bound by that fear.
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)
For the one who believes in Jesus this is a very precious truth. The essence of your loved one, the real him or her, is safe in the presence of the Lord.
Because death is the entrance into eternity we should not be surprised that we cannot understand everything about this. But we can accept that one day it will all be clear.
And until then, you can be certain that your loved one is safe in His hands.
“If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,” (Philippians 1:22-25)
Paul preferred to go home and be “with the Lord.” But as long as God needed Him for a purpose on earth, he was content to stay.
In your pain you too may feel you would rather go home to be “with the Lord”. But if you’re still breathing, God has something here for you to do, even if you cannot see it right now.
Make the decision that you’ll stick around as long as God has something for you to do, and trust that He’ll make that clear to you.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Often, especially during grief, it feels as though our troubles are anything but “light” or “momentary.”
If this life were as good as it gets, we would be right to give up. But this is not the end. There is something beyond what we can see and experience right now.
And for those of us who are walking with Jesus what is to come will be glorious. So glorious that we will consider our present pain to be so small in comparison that it won’t be worth mentioning.
For that to be so, that glory will have to be pretty awesome!
“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 7:17, 21:4)
Imagine the scene. You are standing in the New Jerusalem with others who have also believed in Jesus. Then comes this wonderful moment; God Himself makes His way toward you, puts His arm around you, and with His heavenly golden handkerchief wipes your tears away with a touch so gentle and healing that you will never need to cry again.
And the sense of this is that not only will He wipe the tears from your eyes; He will wipe them from your heart as well.
Don’t quit now. Don’t give up short of being able to experience that moment. Your tears will be wiped away!
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
Knowing Jesus makes a difference here and now.
And yet this life, even with Jesus, is not enough. God has somehow encoded eternity in our hearts. And Jesus’ resurrection assures us of that.
This grief journey is temporary. Your tears and pain, your loved one’s resting place, your grief – it will all be over one day. Death will die!
Keep looking forward to the day when death will be swallowed up in victory.
Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!
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You may also be interested in our 30 day devotional email series based on this book. This will provide you a brief Scripture, commentary, and prayer that will help you experience God’s comfort and take a small step forward each day on this journey.