My dad called me last week to let me know that my uncle had passed away. My Uncle Don loved Jesus and his family very much. He wasn’t a big talker. He would sit silently for long stretches during family discussions while others produced most of the words, but just at the right time, he would break into the conversation with something very profound or funny. He didn’t speak often but when he did everyone benefited from what he said.
Next week I am flying to Oregon to take part in a memorial service for Uncle Don. I have been asked to be a part of the service and as I think about Don and prepare some remarks, I find myself filled with sadness and joy. I know his memorial service will be filled with these two elements as well. There will be a celebration of His life and joy that He is with Jesus, but there will also be sadness that he is gone.
The Scripture teaches us that death is always going to produce these conflicting emotions within the believer. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” If you are a follower of Jesus who loses someone that you love, there is grief. Paul doesn’t say that he wants them to be informed so that when those they love die, they will not have any grief. No, he says he wants them to be informed so that their grief will be different. God has made us for relationships and connection. The stronger the connection, the harder it is when that connection is cut off by death. Grief is a sign of a loving relationship and strong connection.
However, God doesn’t want us to just have grief when those we love die. He wants that grief to mix with hope. The connection has been cut, but only temporarily. For followers of Jesus there is a guaranteed reunion that will take place in the future. This reunion will take place around the throne of Jesus and this promise brings us joy, hope and encouragement alongside our grief. If you have lost someone close to you, don’t feel guilty that you are still grieving, because that grief is a recognition of the beautiful connection that you had with that person. At the same time, don’t feel bad if you are experiencing joy and relief that they are with Jesus and hope that you will join them there one day, because that hope and encouragement comes from the beautiful eternal perspective that is ours in Jesus.
I know my Uncle Don’s memorial service will be filled with mourning and hope, sadness and joy and that is the way it should be when we lose a fellow believer. Thank God for the hurt because it reflects love and connection, and thank God for the hope and joy that can be ours because we will meet again in our ultimate home.