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. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
In a recent sermon, Bill Hybels shared this story: A friend of mine has a brain-damaged daughter. Sometimes the sadness she feels over her daughter's condition overwhelms her, as it did recently. She wrote me this letter and gave me permission to quote from it: ". . . I can hardly bear it sometimes. My most recent wave of grief came just last year before her sixteenth birthday. As the day approached, I found myself brooding over all the things that she would never be able to do. What did I do? What I've learned to do again and again: I did what I believe is the only thing to do to conquer grief, and that is to embrace it. . . I cried and cried and cried and faced the truth of my grief head-on." People who face their feelings and express them freely begin the journey toward hope. Preaching Today.
At some point in life, everyone deals with grief. Without faith in God, managing grief can be an overwhelming emotional experience. Thus, the Bible provides instructions about how followers of Jesus Christ should manage their grief. The Bible does not say we should not grieve. To grieve is a necessary part of our humanity. We grieve failed marriages, declining health, loss of employment, or failed businesses. But the Bible encourages us to grieve with hope.
What does grief look like? As described by Author Edgar Jackson, “Grief is a young widow trying to raise her three children, alone. Grief is the man so filled with shocked uncertainty and confusion that he strikes out at the nearest person. Grief is a mother walking daily to a nearby cemetery to stand quietly and alone a few minutes before going about the tasks of the day. She knows that part of her is in the cemetery, just as part of her is in her daily work. Grief is the silent, knife-like terror and sadness that comes a hundred times a day when you start to speak to someone who is no longer there. Grief is the emptiness that comes when you eat alone after eating with another for many years. Grief is teaching yourself to go to bed without saying good night to the one who had died. Grief is the helpless wishing that things were different when you know they are not and never will be again. Grief is a whole cluster of adjustments, apprehensions, and uncertainties that strike life in its forward progress and make it difficult to redirect the energies of life.
What does it mean to grieve with hope? It is communicating our emotional anguish to God in prayer and allowing His Holy Spirit to rescue us when our spirits are crushed. Grieving with hope is drawing nearer to God when our sorrow overwhelms our souls so we can find strength from His comforting grace. It is rejoicing in our faith in God knowing that He is our present help and faithful friend in our time of need.
In today’s text, Paul instructs believers in the church at Thessalonica to remain hopeful in the Lord even as they struggle with the death of their loved ones. Paul provides specific instructions for how the saints at Thessalonica should grieve for their brothers and sisters in Christ that has transitioned to glory. He reminds them that while death may seem final, it is but a transition to a life of eternal glory with the Lord. Thus, believers should grieve those that have died with hope.
The mother in today’s illustration grieves the fact that her daughter is brain-damaged. She grieved the many things her daughter will not be able to do because of her unfortunate circumstances. She cried and cried and cried and faced the truth of her grief head-on." That is exactly what the rest of us should do when dealing with grief. We must face our feelings and express them freely so we can begin the journey toward hope.
Questions for Personal Reflection
How are you managing your grief?
What can you do to help someone who is struggling with grief?
Prayer- Blessed Lord, thank you for the comfort you provide to those who are grieving. May your comforting grace continue to sustain me and many others who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Please help me to be a blessing to those who are grieving without hope.