Death. The weight of that word makes me cringe. That word is usually attached to lots of hurt, pain, sorrow, and tears, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that God hates that word too. Death comes from Satan, and originally had no place in God’s perfect plan. Simply put, Satan is the author of death. When sin entered the world, death entered the world, and because of that, everything (humans and creation) is suffering and groaning waiting for the Lord’s return.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
Now I know that can be a little depressing, so I’ll also share the hopeful side of the coin as well. Although Satan is the author of death, God is the author of Life! Thankfully, when we are in Christ, death loses its sting, and has no hold over us anymore. And when we lose someone we love who is in Christ, we can mourn with a glimpse of joy that they are now experiencing true Life with no more suffering or pain, and that they get to be in a perfect, harmonious relationship with the One who created them. They are no longer in a broken relationship, but rather in a perfect one with God, the author of Life and Love.
“‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
-1 Corinthians 15:55-57
For most of my life, Heaven seemed like a foreign concept. It just didn’t seem real. To be honest, the fact that I would die one day never really (and honestly, still hasn’t completely) sunk in either. Although we are incapable of even imagining the beauty and splendor of Heaven, I am thankful that it is something I can grasp onto a little tighter, and hope in when life starts to look a little hopeless… or when I lose someone I love. I like how in Scripture, when someone dies, they say he “went to sleep”. That’s so true! Although someone’s body is “sleeping”, their spirit is very much alive!
Recently, my amazing Grandmother Suzy passed away. It was really, really hard, but through the pain and tears God taught me a lot and I wanted to share some of these things with you. I hope and pray that these thoughts bring you encouragement, and that if you have a loved one who’s health is deteriorating, or are dealing with the pain of their loss like me, that you will be comforted from some of these things listed below 🙂
1. If they haven’t passed away yet, go ahead and write that letter. Yep, you heard me right! Write a letter to your loved one about what you will always remember about them, and the things you love about them the most. Throw some memories in there too ;). I know that sounds sappy, but trust me…it’s better to share those things with that person face to face or through a letter rather than to other people at the funeral. Don’t put it off, because you never know how many more days they (or anyone for that matter!) have left. Oh, and don’t forget to add the hope of the Gospel in there too! There’s nothing I would rather hear on my death bed than the sweet Truth of what has been done for me and what lies ahead! (P.S. I do want to say that if you didn’t do this and someone you love has already passed, that is OKAY!! So don’t feel a tinge of guilt!!! This is not something that is everyone’s way of loving others!!!)
2. It’s tough. I know you had NO idea (sorry, I couldn’t leave a post like this without any humor ;))…but really, it’s hard and you can be real about that with others. Your friends want to be there for you and it makes it easier for them to love you when you are open with them about the struggle! Allow yourself to cry and grieve.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Also, know that Jesus isn’t some distant God, numb to your pain and emotions. He too has experienced the pain of losing a loved one. At the loss of his friend Lazarus, the Bible says:
“When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’”
He can relate! He knows what you are feeling! He has been there too and has responded with the same grief that you and I experience.
3. Be intentional to spend time with your family. Cancel plans or take off work if you need to…it’s so worth it. It will be a time that you may treasure for the rest of your life, and a time that your family will appreciate more than you know!
4. Going through a loss has the potential to create a bonding experience among your family! It’s just nice for your family to know that you are always there in both the good times AND the hard times.
5. Though our circumstances are always changing, and we have no idea how many hours or years we have left on this side of heaven, our God never changes. It’s literally impossible for Him to be any different tomorrow than he was yesterday or today! We can be comforted that He is our rock and refuge when we have none. He is the only one we can REALLY rely on and hold on to when everything around us is changing!
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
6. At some point, you’ll probably feel lonely. I did, that’s for sure. I want to encourage you to come to Jesus as you are. Be honest with Him about your hurt, pain, loneliness, questions, etc. He is a big God and wants you to share what is on your heart and mind, even though He knows it all anyways 😉 God’s Word really is alive and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword cutting between our joints and marrow and revealing our innermost thoughts. Scripture is also our sword in fighting against spiritual warfare. So in those dark and lonely moments, read your Bible out loud or get your Bible app to read to you! When I stayed up with my Grandma the last night before she passed, I was feeling really lonely, so I listened to Ephesians and I can’t begin to tell you how much comfort that brought me. The recording then preceded to go to Philippians, Colossians, and I just let him keep going!!! 🙂 Those books will always be extra dear to my heart now if for nothing but the sweet memories of Suzy and God’s faithfulness that they bring!
7. Remember that we are saved by Grace (undeserved favor) through Faith! We can have confidence and security in our salvation thanks to the FINISHED and PERFECT work of Christ on our behalf. We can go through the depths of hurt and pain when a loved one passes with hope. Hope that this earthly home is not our real home. One day death will no longer exist, and on that day we will get to live in perfect relationship with God and his people in paradise! Now THAT is something to look forward to!
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Finally, I want to leave you with some encouraging Scripture (as the last sentence says):
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
-1 Thessalonians 4:13-18