Have you cried yet?
Are you sad?
Why aren’t you processing it?
How do you feel?
These are but a few of the questions that various people have asked me since the unexpected death of a good friend on April 12th. Friends who they themselves are struggling with their own loss. Admittedly, we all grieve in our own ways, but because I am not exuberant in showing my sorrow, I know some are uncomfortable with what appears to be my apathy towards the loss of a dear sister in Christ.
I am not apathetic.
My heart weeps for the sorrow my friends carry. My heart weeps for the husband who lost his soul mate at such a young age. My heart weeps for the life long friend whose future children will miss out on the fun that Auntie JHK would have created for them. For the children she would have taught, for the children she and her husband would have had. I weep for the parents and sister who lost a key piece to their family puzzle. I weep for those who could have been shown the love of Christ because of JHK’s willingness to reach out.
Believe me, I grieve. In many ways I have not stopped grieving since I had to say goodbye to six other sweet brothers and sisters in Christ since November. Loosing so many people who I interacted with personally in such a small window of time, leaves me needing quite a bit of time to process it. Admittedly, I do not process verbally like many of my friends do. Which is fine, because it leaves me the ability and desire to allow them to process verbally to me, allowing me to listen with a willing heart and compassionate ears. But, as what I am doing right now can prove, I process things better when I write. One thing that has continually struck me since November, when many friends have worriedly asked me how I was handling all this loss, is that I would rather go to a thousand more memorial services for believers in Christ than just one more funeral for a non-believer. Believe me when I say that I grieve and mourn passionately after those sorrow filled services. For goodness-sakes! I am nearly driven to tears just imagining attending my grandparents’, uncles’, and aunts’, funerals who do not know Christ. Can you imagine what it will be like for me being there? If you are not someone who has had experience with the death of someone close to you, you might not know what I mean. I understand that. I’ve had quite a few deaths since I was a little kid, of family members and friends. Experiencing the difference between services for a Christian and a non-believer are stark and remarkable. And these verses keep coming to mind as I sit at another service–(specifically the bold verses) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ~We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
So that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope- Paul’s not saying that we shouldn’t cry for those that have died. But, he is saying that we should not grieve as if we would never see them again. If we are Christian and the one who died is known to be Christian, we should be rejoicing for them even as we mourn having to say goodbye – for an allotted amount of time. My grief,while very real, is temporary. A Christian’s grief is temporary. Because we don’t truly think about Heaven and what it like, we don’t truly take comfort in the idea of our loved ones being there. We as Christians have such a skewed vision of what it will be like. We’ve built up these ideas of what it is like mostly due to comical cartoons of our age; Saint Peter will judge us due to the coin in our purse, the size of our houses will depend on the severity of our sins, or we’ll be floating around on clouds in the shape of little fat naked babies who know how to play the harp. These ideas are not from the Bible! But what is?
I recommend that we should truly study what Heaven is like, what being in the presence God the Father would be like, what having Jesus Christ the Son before you. If we don’t know what we are going TO why would we WANT to leave? Randy Alcorn does a fascinating study on this concept in his book Heaven, which I am in the process of studying with my Ladies Sunday School class. (When I’m finished I’ll probably write more about it.) My dear friends who have died, who are brothers and sisters in Christ, are not gone. And I will not grieve over the loss of them as if I will never see them again. I will mourn the loss of contact with them, the loss of being able to share stories with them and living life with them. But, the truth of the matter is, I am envious of them for the fact that they get to stand in the presence of God right now, and I have to wait until the time He calls me home to stand beside them. Though my grief is not like those who have no hope, I do still have sorrow.
One thing I take to heart through all of this is this: you never know when God is going to call you home. So spend your time wisely: love each other deeply, store up those special moments so that you won’t have regrets, don’t put off of those things you want to do with your loved ones, do what you are being prompted to do, live for God and do his work while you have time to do so. Heaven is waiting and so are my beloved friends, and this sorrow I feel is temporary to the grief I would have if I didn’t believe in the God who can give us eternal life. I will keep my eyes on Heaven, because that is where I want to be celebrating eternal life rather than here on Earth wasting away while I grieve because of eternal death.
How do you grieve? Have you taken time to think about it?