Hope in Sorrow
At the close of the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians (4:13-18), Paul provides comfort to believers whose loved ones have died in the Lord. He starts with a desire for them to know certain truths concerning the believers who have died. Ignorance about Biblical truth is not bliss but the road to multiplied sorrows Comfort for God’s people is through faith in the promises of God in Christ. Knowing what the Bible tells us about death and the state of believers safe in Christ is the ground of comfort in unspeakable sadness. Even the way Paul describes the dead orients us to what has happened. Their bodies are laid to rest, but their souls are with Jesus. Death separates body and soul; our loved ones are “absent from the body.”
It is tremendous grief to see a loved one’s body but to know they are no longer there. But we are called to sorrow like Christians. If you don’t know Christ, you’ll mourn as a person with no hope. But in Christ, there is hope, even at the funeral home. This is a powerful statement that we need to reckon with. To stand over the grave of your dearest’s body and have hope? The doctor may give you hope for a cure when someone is sick. When someone is living astray, you may have hope they’ll repent and the prodigal will come home. But to have hope in death? Where can you go for hope at the graveside? To the one who rose from the dead.
Jesus died on the cross and was buried. But the grave could not hold him, and after three days, he rose from the dead. Not a vision. Not a spirit, but the Lord Jesus Christ bodily rose from the dead. Believers in Christ Jesus are united to Him. We have the forgiveness of sins, we have His perfect righteousness, we are justified by faith, and there is no condemnation. But we also have the promise that where He is now, we will also be. We have the promise of the resurrection of our mortal bodies. We sorrow in the hope that the dead body will one day be raised from the dead. One day, we will see those who have died in Christ again, with a glorified, resurrected body where, like our Lord, death will have no power. Corruption will be a thing of the past. Sickness, pain, and suffering will be no more.
Just as Jesus ascended from this earth to the right hand of the Father, he will come back again. Yes, Christians have great sorrow when our brothers and sisters leave this world. But more for ourselves. We sorrow because we miss them, and we may sorrow with regret. But we don’t mourn without hope because we believe in the promises of our Lord Jesus. I know Jesus died for me. I know He rose for me. I know He now sits as my mediator. And I know he’s coming back for me.