Losing a loved one to death is one of the most complex separations on earth. The death of a spouse, a child, or a close friend may seem more than a human heart can hold. Although we all will face death in time, how do we wrestle with it when it strikes a loved one?
Coping with Death
For the Christian, there is eternity. As C. S. Lewis put it, "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." Though we know heaven is real, it's hard to get past the hurt of losing someone precious.
Thankfully, when we turn to God for help, He never fails. Reading through the promises of God's Word brings life to our hurting souls. And death can be viewed in light of eternity.
The compassion and love of God with the comfort that comes from the Holy Spirit will surround us in times of grief. Focusing on the things above will put our brief life on earth into proper perspective. Grief and loss are devastating, yet God's grace comes to the weeping heart.
God's Love and Compassion Comforts Us
The shortest verse in the 66 books and 31,102 verses of the Bible reveals God's deep love and compassion in these two words: Jesus wept! The death of Jesus' dear friend Lazarus is a fitting story.
Although Jesus knew Lazarus had been dead for four days, He told his disciples, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
Once Jesus arrived, He assured the sister of Lazarus, Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die" (John 11:25-26).
He was moved with sympathy, compassion, and love. Standing at the tomb with the sisters, Mary and Martha, and all who were mourning over the death of Lazarus, Jesus was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled" (John 11:33).
He knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead, yet his heart hurt. The Jews noticed and responded, "See how he loved him!" (John 11:36).
Jesus was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled," not only by the death of Lazarus but by the sin that caused death and separation from God.
In just a few days, Jesus would give his life on the cross, be raised from the dead, and conquer sin and death forever! Lazarus would come out of the tomb to die once again, but Jesus would conquer sin and death forever.
Jesus, the "man of sorrow, acquainted with griefs" (Isaiah 53:3), knew the pain of losing a dear friend to death. His death and resurrection give confident strength when facing the loss of a loved one.
The love and compassion of Jesus invite us to come and receive His help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
We Can Expect God's Comfort to Fill Our Aching Hearts
When my dad died after 63 years of marriage with my mom, she dreaded returning home to an empty house. She told the Lord, "I don't think I can do this."
But when she put her foot over the threshold, it was as if God wrapped her in a warm blanket and removed the chill of loneliness.
Instantly, she knew the comfort of God and the confidence needed for tomorrow.
God promises comfort in our grief. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).
Another translation puts it this way, "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you" (MSG). The compassionate love and understanding Jesus gives in our time of need will be enough.
We also have the comfort of the Comforter (the Helper), who walks alongside us through every difficulty, living "with us" and "in us" (John 14:6, 17). The Holy Spirit's comfort will not fail to provide the strength needed in the grieving process (Romans 8:11).
Receiving God's comfort is a sign of God's presence within. Comfort will invade the pain, as God promised.
Mourning can turn to dancing because of eternity. "You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy" (Psalm 30:11).
Though we sorrow, we don't grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is something far better coming.
Eternity in Heaven Puts Death in its Right Perspective
Like a child returning home after going away to college, the reunion of parents and child is so sweet. Like parents longing to see their son or daughter, God longs to see His children come home. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants" (Psalm 116:15).
God's desire to dwell with His children is captured throughout Scripture. God walked with Adam and Eve in Eden (Genesis 3). "Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8, 29:45, emphasis mine).
The sanctuary where God's presence dwelt was in the center when Israel camped. God led them by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night (Numbers 2:1-2).
Jesus came from heaven to earth to be with people and prepare them for eternity, to live together forever (John 10:10). Heaven is the culmination of God's desire to dwell with His people (Revelation 21:1-3).
In times of death and loss, we can remember God's endless love and compassion for His children. He longs to be with us and is preparing a grander-than-we-can-imagine place for us.
Anticipating heaven will put into perspective the separation of a loved one gone before us. Life on earth is like a vapor. Heaven is eternal.
Life in heaven includes a new body. The great resurrection chapter says, "The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
The new body that will never die was God's idea from the beginning of time (2 Corinthians 5:1,2,5).
Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. And when the death of the perishable body instantly becomes imperishable, "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
Though we weep over our loved ones who have gone before us, we find solace in the love and compassion of Jesus. God's promises bring comfort in our mourning. And, the thought of heaven in all its splendors will help turn our focus away from the pain and loss of a loved one to the joys of heaven, being together with all the saints of God in eternity.
Death is not to be dreaded but to be our initiation into a far greater eternal habitation where the Lord dwells forever in unimagined beauty and blessing.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4).
We can say with Paul, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
Thankfully, God's Word amply supplies the truths to garner strength and hope in death. Reflecting on the compassion of Jesus, the promise of God's comfort, and the reality of heaven will give the tenacity to face life after the loss of a loved one.
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Judy McEachran loves to worship the Author of life and love. She is an ordained pastor and gifted musician who writes and speaks to encourage believers. She pastored churches in the Midwest and after retirement moved to Arizona. She is humbled not only by the gracious love of God but by her devoted husband, two sons, and ten grandchildren. You can visit her website at God Secrets that Impart Life. Find her music on YouTube. Judy’s natural musical giftings invite worshippers into the presence of the Lord.