A close friend of mine recently faced the very real possibility of his wife dying suddenly and unexpectedly. Gratefully the episode, though serious, turned out not to be life threatening and she is essentially none the worse for wear. But there were some very dark hours in which the death of the person he loves most dearly stared him in the face.
It’s a crisis that we all will have to face at some point in our lives. The question is how? Actually a more important question, and one that should answer the first question is where does one find God in that situation? That was the question I put to my friend. As he is a fervent Christ-follower I was eager to hear his response.
Before he answered directly, he made sure to clarify an important point; death is a direct result sin. Not specific sins, rather that God created humankind pure but we believed Satan’s lie that we don’t need God and thereby fell into a state of sinfulness. As a result of that choice death came to us. Jesus offers life to all who will believe he is the Son of God and through his death on our behalf he has the authority to grant us life. Our perishable bodies need to be transformed into imperishable, but that will happen when Jesus returns physically. Until that point we will all face physical death because of sin.
My friend’s reason for making that point was because we try to soften the pain of death. The bare fact is that death is a result of sin and, therefore, is right to be mourned deeply. He said that while he stood outside of the ambulance which held his unconscious wife and anticipated what may come, he knew profound sorrow and grief lay ahead. But here is the key. He didn’t try to argue, or bargain, or even beg God. His heart, spirit, and mind were in complete submission to the Father. And in that submission, acknowledging both his and his wife’s dependence upon God, he would be free to mourn and grieve as he may need.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Paul said that Christ-followers need not grieve like those who have no hope. He did not say we should not grieve, but that we grieve in hope. In Jesus we have hope, we have confidence of eternal life for us and our loved ones who have believed Jesus. And in the strength that comes through that hope we can rightly embrace grief.