“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. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”1 Thessalonians 4:13–14
I grieve that we (the saints) have forgotten how to grieve. Death is a loss. Yes, it is gain for the departed, but for we who remain, experientially, it is loss (Philippians 1:21). We have tried to transform funerals into festivals. There is a time to mourn. We are not the healthier for ignoring that time.
I grieve that we have forgotten to grieve, but I grieve all the more that this often means we have forgotten how to hope. We rejoice in the life lived (on earth) instead of the life being lived and the life to be lived (in heaven). We look back when we should look forward. We exercise our memory of the past more than we do our longing for the future. We look to past photos more than future promises. We watch a video instead of reading the Bible. We listen to a favorite song of the departed instead of lifting up a song to the eternal Son who rose from the grave.
The remembrances are not for rejoicing. They are for grieving the loss and expressing gratitude for gifts enjoyed. Remember. Laugh. Smile. Give thanks. Yes! But do not anchor your joy or comfort there. The memories are for mourning. The promises are for praise. It is not as we look back that we find solace for our sorrow. It is as we look forward that we find hope to illumine our grief. Death is an enemy. He has dealt his blow. But there is victory in Christ. It is because we don’t grieve that we fail to lament “Come Lord Jesus!” Paradoxically, is because we are short on grief and lament that we are short on hope and joy.
I do grieve for the loss of hope, but more so, I have hope for the loss of all grief. Every tear will be wiped away. One reason I shed tears now is because I want others to know such hope in the midst of the grief they try to ignore. The storm is real. The rock is just as real. Don’t ignore the storm. Cherish the rock.
I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. —Psalm 18:1–6 (ESV)