The pastor of the church my wife and I attend passed away this afternoon. This possibility was a prime topic of discussion at this morning’s services. There were many teary eyes. But as we contemplate the death of a Christian brother or sister, are tears appropriate?
Why Do We Grieve?
Grief is a natural reaction anytime someone close to us passes away. We grieve mostly because we miss that person. Depending on the relationship between us, that feeling of loss can have devastating results in our life — if we let it.
Generally speaking, we grieve because *we* feel loss; making the feelings self-centered. There are a myriad of circumstances that make that statement less fitting:
- A child who dies before having a chance to accomplish anything.
- A leader who’s leadership make a significant difference in the lives of others and no one else is prepared to step into that role.
- Someone close to us dies without having come to know the Lord.
- Someone dies because of our own action or inaction, making it our fault.
- Someone dies by their own hand.
In these instances we feel compassion for others who are affected, and we may lament the loss of potential for one who dies young, but most of the grief we feel concerns the hole the loss of that person makes in our own life. We are feeling sorry for ourselves.
A certain amount of that is normal, natural, and even healthy. But there is a limit. If we move into that dark place and set up camp, that becomes decidedly unhealthy.
If the person who died is a Christian and in good standing with the Lord, we do not need to grieve for them. That person has left the pain and frustration of this life behind and has gone on to be with Jesus. That is a glorious, joyful thing.
2nd Corinthians 5:1 says, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, [our body] is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Verse 5 continues:
5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
A true Christian does not fear death — we welcome the opportunity to be with Jesus, to be freed from this miserable, perverse world — once God says it’s time. But some do fear dying, for that can be an unpleasant experience, especially if we make it more so by not trusting God.
Birthing Into Heaven
I often equate dying to this world and entering heaven to the process we underwent when we were birthed into this world. Have you ever thought about what an unborn child thinks as he is expelled from the only world he has known and thrust into another that is as unfamiliar as can be?
Being mooshed through her mother’s birth canal has to be painful and terrifying. Yet that child adapts quickly and soon all conscious memory of the world she left behind is faded away.
I expect it will be similar as we transition to Heaven. The process may (or may not) be physically uncomfortable but mentally and spiritually we should be joyful. We too may feel a pang of sadness and loss for those we leave behind, but when we emerge in paradise, our former life will fade away as we settle into our role in eternity.
When we, as Christians, lose one of our own it is occasion for celebration, not wailing. To be present with Jesus is the desired goal of every Christian.
Then we who remain must see to the needs of others left behind. Accepting the change will be harder on some, help them process their grief. Help them draw strength from their faith, so they don’t get mired in grief. As children of God we are family, and family supports one another in times of trial.
Death is an inevitable part of life on this earth. We really ought to be prepared for that eventuality, but few are.