O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?—I Corinthians 15:55
Despite what many will say, death is not a part of life, at least not the life God originally designed. Instead, death is a reminder that something has gone terribly wrong with the world. Paul makes this point vividly clear in I Cor. 15:25-26 when he describes death as an “enemy,” an ugly invader into the good world God created. Yet, for the Christian, we have hope in the face of death. We know that death is not the end. Christ has defeated death in the resurrection. We have a future (Rom. 5:21; I Jn. 3:2).
Even with these amazing promises, we cannot deny the fact that death still stings. When a loved one dies, we cry and grieve. We feel lost and lonely. We feel like a part of ourselves has died in the death of the one we love. What are we to do? Thankfully, the Bible helps us pace through the many layers of grief, to find hope and healing in the valley of the shadow of death. A few reminders:
- First, run to God – When King David lost his son Absalom, he did not bottle everything up and try to figure it out alone. He spoke what he felt, and he spoke to God, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Samuel 18:33) The emotion was real and expressed, and it was directed toward God. The Psalmist assures us that the Lord hears our weeping. He listens to us in the darkness (Ps.6:8). Do not be shy about showing or expressing emotion, but in your sorrow, let the truth of God’s ever present help be your lasting comfort (Ps.46:1).
- Second, run away from sin – Grief is an opportune moment for the Evil One to attack. In grief, we often turn to quick fixes that will temporarily dull the pain but not heal the wound. We will often become morbidly introspective and start looking for answers in the wrong places, which leads us down a path of doubt, despair, and hopelessness. When you sense this is happening, know that you’ve lost sight of God in your grief. Return to Him and find hope.
- Third, run with others – Death by definition is lonely; someone you love is gone. Grief can perpetuate the feeling of loneliness, especially if we close up and isolate from others in our sadness. Time alone to pray and think and collect our thoughts is good and necessary, but too much time alone (or the wrong kind of time alone) can do more harm than good. You are not designed to bear the burden of grief alone. God has given you a community. Reach out to those around you. Find friends to speak, eat, pray, walk, and even recreate with, so that the burden of grief might grow lighter over time (Gal.6:2).
- Fourth, run toward eternity – The Christian has hope because death is not the end. There is a glorious future ahead, where every tear will be wiped away. Face your loss with an eye toward eternity. Allow yourself to feel the pain of loss, but leave room in your heart for celebrating the eternal life to come. Remember, loss is only for a moment, for death will one day die. Through your tears, prepare for the life to come—eternity with Christ forevermore.
“As you weep, know this: The One who weeps with you is not content for things to stay as they are. His death was a cry and his resurrection a promise. The living Christ will continue to exert his power and you will grieve no more.”—Paul David Tripp