On August 17, 2012, Skylar Barton (on left) went to be with the Lord. He was the younger brother of a member, Zack. As a church, we grieved with our brother. Providentially, the text for that Sunday was 1 Thess 4:13–18, and we thought together at “Grieving…with Hope.”
When asked about the risk of death, Indy 500 race car driver Scott Goodyear answered, “You don’t deal with it. You pretend like it never happened.” Often people don’t like to face their mortality. We fight the appearance of age and prefer not to think about such matters. In the face of grief, though, many feel paralyzed and without hope. However, though the Christian is to grieve, we must “not grieve as those who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13). Christian faith does not eliminate the need to grieve, but it gives us resources of hope in the face of grief.
First we have the hope of resurrection in the face of the fear of death. Hamlet endured the frustrations of life because of “the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns” (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1). The fear of death is rooted in the wages of sin; we fear death because death is the consequence of our sin. We conquer this fear through the death of Christ, who “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18). As a result, “through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep (1 Thess 4:14).
Second, we have the hope of Christ’s return in the face of confusion. Death, especially the unexpected death of a loved one, often disorients and confuses us. At times, God feels distant, and we feel disoriented. When C. S. Lewis lost his wife, he wondered about God, “Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?” Grief does not disappear after the funeral, but it begins a long journey through an often dark valley. Our hope, though, is that Christ will return, and when he appears all that was dark will become light. Until He comes, we see dimly as through a veil. When Christ comes, we will see clearly.
Finally, we have the hope of reunion the face of loss. For the Christian, death is never “goodbye” but “see you later.” When we lose somebody we love, we feel the loss profoundly at odd times throughout the day. The Lord will raise the dead with a trumpet call and we “will be caught up together with them in the clouds” (1 Thess 4:16–17). It will be a glorious reunion indeed when every tear is wiped from our eyes, and our every heartache is healed.
In the face of death, we grieve, but we grieve with hope. As we grieve and walk with those who grieve, may we grieve with hope.