Death isn’t meant to be celebrated. It only exists as the wages of sin. The body wasn’t initially created to be mortal. When humanity essentially rejected God, the results of their actions introduced a biology that could die. We’ve been dying ever since. To die and have your body undergoing decay, even if your conscious soul is somewhere much better, is a consequence that is tragic.
It is right to grieve. Many people want their funeral to be a celebration of their life. Even more, for a Christian, we want it to be a celebration of the fact that we are liberated from our sinful nature and from a body under God’s curse. But if we were valuable at all to the people we left behind, there will be grief.
How can we survive grief? The victory over grief starts with an understanding of your own God-given purpose. Life isn’t the prize. Life is the time of accomplishing God’s plan for you. As we navigate through this world, we are blessed to have people we love and who support us on our way. They are valuable, but they will all die either before us or after us. They may be dependable, but we can’t depend on them absolutely, because they are mortal. We must depend on God. Perhaps through a part of your journey, God will be the only one you have on which to depend.
The second necessary ingredient to surviving grief is hope. This should be the understanding that you will have eternal life with God through Jesus. All of life’s losses are temporary. At least their impact is temporary. When we leave this life ourselves we will leave behind every loss. A clear certainty that we have eternal life and that we have a God-given purpose takes most of the sting of grief away. The rest heals as we walk with God. Jesus died so that you can have that hope, that reality. What He has for you will overwhelm all sense of loss.
This is true even if we have reason to doubt that the person we are grieving has been saved. While we live, we want to do whatever is possible to bring the Gospel of Jesus to those we know and love. That doesn’t mean that they will believe it. It is wrong to absolutely judge a person as damned. You can’t always see what God has managed to do in the soul of a person. Still, you might have a pretty good idea that there was no connection with Jesus from the words and actions of the person. I have that situation personally. I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. What I have found is that God has given me peace.
Unexpected, tragic death can put an extra dimension on grief. We recently had the tragic death of a beautiful young woman in our congregation. Her loss is a grievous loss for her parents and the community. There are many layers to pain that people are feeling, too. There is grief, guilt, anger, confusion. In addition to the self-understanding and hope mentioned above, a person needs to talk through their pain and experience the love of those around them. They need to forgive and be forgiven. And they need to reimagine life without her. In this case, that life includes an eventual reunion, thanks to Jesus.
If we get stuck in grief, if we tell ourselves we will never get over this, then we might not. Grief hurts. But not progressing through grief does not honor the person you lost, nor does it serve God, nor does it help you. Be determined to get beyond grief. It is possible.