As our Good Shepherd, He leads us safely through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4b). Remember, a shadow indicates that there is a light on the other side!
Deep faith in Christ does not prevent grief when a believer dies, but it infuses grief with hope! For Christians, death is a passageway to eternal life (see John 5:24). Paul said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21b). He also said, “I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died” (1 Thessalonians 4:13b-14, NLT).
Well-meaning people may say, “Jesus took your loved one away,” but that can cause people – especially children – to be angry at God. 1 Corinthians 15:26 says death is our last enemy. Therefore, we can say, “Death took our loved one away from us, but Jesus took our loved one away from death!”
If we don’t know whether our loved one believed in Jesus, we must simply trust God. The Bible says, “The Lord … is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). The thief on the cross turned to Christ in the last hours of life (see Luke 23:39-43). We do not know what happens in a person’s final moments between life and death, but God does – and He determines who enters His Kingdom.
The Holy Spirit – also called the Comforter (see John 14:26, KJV) – can give us God’s peace, even in the midst of suffering. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The peace of God does not come from our circumstances, but from drawing close to Him.
Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). God beckons us into His loving arms so He can heal our wounded hearts.
Grief can affect our thinking, behavior, emotions, relationships, and health. People may experience sleeplessness, exhaustion, indigestion, lack of appetite, or memory lapses. Recognising that these are common reactions to grief can help us minimise them by reaching out to friends, joining a prayer group, or asking a pastor or Christian counselor for assistance.
One of the most difficult tasks for a bereaved person is adjusting to the new environment without the loved one who has died or moved away. When is it appropriate to put away a loved one’s things, make lifestyle changes, or form new relationships? We will find the answers as time passes and recovery progresses. God will show us His timing and His direction as we seek Him.
There are three steps to recovery, which I will share with you in the next edition tomorrow.