Over the past 18 months, as a family we have wept, discussed and grieved over my father’s terminal cancer diagnoses. Sitting at his bedside for the last 36 hours, waiting for the Lord to take him home to heaven, has given me time to think about the reality of death for a Christian.
Death is ugly. God has so designed us that death is unnatural to us. We were meant to live and the human body fights death all the way. The final breath on earth seems so final, yet for the Christian it’s just the beginning!
For those of us who are left, we feel the pang of death, and real emptiness. We don’t mourn for our loved ones, we are sad and feel the loss ourselves. They are where we yearn to be, “with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23); in the Lord’s presence, with no more pain or fear or sorrow.
As Christians we look forward to a glorious future, secured by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle John speaks of this in the book of Revelation, “‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev. 21:4-5).
In the immediate aftermath of death, what now?
God has made us to grieve and sorrow in the face of death. Jesus himself wept over the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35).
Even when we know our loved one is with the Lord, the sadness can be a struggle. This is not wrong or selfish! Dealing with grief is essential in order to come to terms with the loss of our loved one, move on with life and, importantly, mature as Christians.
We all react in different ways to our grief. Some may feel numb and disoriented, then endure pangs of yearning for the person who has died. Others may feel anxious and have trouble sleeping, perhaps dwelling on old arguments or words they wish they had expressed.
In the midst of loss and memories, which cause us to shed tears, as Christians we look to the Bible and find comfort, for example, in the words Paul wrote to the Thessalonians who were experiencing their own loss:
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (I Thessalonians 4:13-14).
While we wait for that glorious moment of Christ’s return, grief is real, parting is difficult, hearts are breaking. How wonderful and reassuring that the Lord is near to help:“I called on Your name, O Lord, from the lowest pit. You have heard my voice: ‘Do not hide Your ear from my sighing, from my cry for help.’ You drew near on the day I called on You, and said, ‘Do not fear!’” (Lamentations 3:55-57).