Like Button

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Death in the Family

Last week friends at church went to the funeral of a family member. "It's okay," they said. "He is with the Lord." This week we were notified of the passing of one of the oldest members in my father's considerably large family, memorial services to be held ... well, you get the idea.

Death is a touchy subject. There is the fundamental fear of death common to all creatures. There is the question of eternity -- in heaven or ... oh, no, don't ask that. There is the question of response. Do we weep or celebrate or ...? Some are pushing toward "celebrations of life" rather than funerals or the like. That addresses both our fear of death and the response, doesn't it? Distract ourselves from "death" and "celebrate" and we've got both problems answered. In fact, if we're just "celebrating a life," we don't have to ask that other question, either -- the one about eternity. But is this good? I get the idea and I'm not hard over on this, but I'm not sure it's the best idea. Celebrating the life of a loved one who passed on might ease some of the pain for the family and friends, but there will still be pain in the passing. It seems like there should be a better answer.

I know faithful believers who say, "When I go, I want you to celebrate because I'll be in the best possible place; I'll be with Jesus." Truly good news, but it misses the point. I won't mourn loved ones who pass on because I'm mourning for them. I'll mourn them for my loss. Neither the fear of death nor their eternal destination are part of that equation. I can and will rejoice for loved ones I know are with Christ; that doesn't address my own pain. But Scripture says we should not grieve as others do (1 Thess 4:13). Note that this is is not "Do not grieve." Just "not like them." How is it different? They "have no hope." So we grieve for fellow believers who "fall asleep" (the biblical euphemism) but not without hope. We "will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord" (1 Thess 4:17). Note the point there. "With the Lord" together. To those who are in Christ, there can be nothing better than to "always be with the Lord." That's hope. And that should inform my pain at the passing of a loved one. Grieve, just not like the others without hope do, because there is ultimate hope. My loss is temporary. "Therefore encourage one another with these words" (1 Thess 4:18).

I don't fear death. I look forward to it. I do fear dying. The process can be painful and frightening, but the actual end is marvelous. For me, to die is gain. But that doesn't address others who might be touched when I depart. I'll be in a better place (I don't think I can imagine a larger understatement), but at my passing I hope that those who are grieving are comforted with the hope that we will always be together with the Lord someday. A celebration of life is fine, but it shouldn't be all there is. That only counts if this life is all there is. It's not. And that gives me hope.

1 comment:

Bob said...

I fear that sometimes we use spiritual statements to deflect from the real pain.
just this week a friend cut his hand. it was like; yea man cut my hand pretty bad, but praise the lord... What.. dude you need stitches. He was just deflecting from the reality at God's expense. Morning for the loss of a love one is a real thing; and should not be marginalize by dubious escape mechanisms such as celebrations. when it time to Cry; Just Cry....