Posted in Faith, Personal Development

On Loss and Grief and Hope

grief2

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NLT).

Yesterday was the final service for a church my husband and I had pastored for 16 years. We resigned last summer and new leadership took over. But still the news of closure hit us hard. It represents the death of a dream the Lord placed in our hearts for a growing, thriving, influential ministry.

The responses to our sadness have been varied. A few people are willing to walk with us as we process our grief. Some people are uncomfortable with the expression of grief of any kind. They speak words of encouragement to get our focus on Jesus, hoping we will quickly adjust our attitude to positive. Or they share cliches with the best of intentions in hopes of fixing us.

They interpret the Scripture verse to mean if we focus on Jesus we will not grieve.

You will not grieve like people who have no hope.

I have attended some Celebration of Life services where the overall feel is “Don’t be sad. This loved one is in heaven now, rejoicing with Jesus.” The participants are expected to shove their sorrow aside and put on a happy face, because only sweet reminiscing is allowed. There is no room to acknowledge that their loved one will be greatly missed, that the loss is significant.

On the flip side, I have attended some funerals where the feel was dark and oppressive. The loss of a loved one is unbearable. There is no mention of Jesus Christ or eternal life. Death is all there is. Doom, gloom, and despair. In a setting like this, hope does not exist.

I believe this example shows a better way to interpret the Scripture verse.

You will not grieve like people who have no hope.

As followers of Jesus, we have hope. So do not grieve like others without hope.

Whether it’s the death of a loved one or a death of a dream, we don’t grieve like those who have no hope, but we still grieve.

The difference is we grieve with hope. As we look at our loss, we also look to the faithfulness of God throughout the years and acknowledge His presence with us now.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

We do a huge disservice to people (including ourselves) if we dismiss “negative” emotions. In the midst of difficulties and trials, in the midst of overwhelming loss, we hold fast to the promises of God.

So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:7-8, emphasis added).

 
I love that Jesus welcomes transparency. We acknowledge the grief, AND we acknowledge He is greater. It’s not one or the other. It’s “and.” The two realities will exist together as long as we live in a world that is less than what the Lord originally designed. Problems and pain do not negate the power of God in our lives. Rather they become invitations for Him to continue to be our steadfast hope.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. Life is hard sometimes, and the loss I experience is great. Thank You that You are greater. Thank You that nothing I face can separate me from Your love. Thank You that in the midst of every situation, You offer abundant hope and peace. In Your Name. Amen.

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