Everyone has had some experience with death, whether it is the loss of a spouse, family member, or friend, death impacts people profoundly. There are not many certainties in this life, but one thing is for sure, that every single individual is going to face death. Death has a 1:1 ratio, meaning that death is inescapable.
Because death is so certain, the question is not how do we prevent death ultimately, but how do we deal with death, when it comes knocking on our door? In my experience as a Pastor, people deal with death in the following ways: 1) they practically deny the existence of death and so when it happens they are unable to deal with the loss 2) people find death something to be feared and consider it a tragic end, leaving them hopeless and 3) death is something to be embraced and points an individual to the hope of Heaven. Now again, I am generally speaking, however, if death is a part of life, then we all need to be prepared to meet it when it comes. You can say it another way, as Cassian Folsom a Benedictine monk, says that death can either be a thief looking to steal something that is precious to you, or it can be viewed as a messenger, informing you that your beloved is at the door.
Grieving the loss is part of the process in dealing with death, and I want to assert that it is okay to grieve. Often times when death happens, especially within our family, the tendency is to hurry up and deal with the emotions, so that you can be available to the other members who are also suffering the loss. Or, you are so busy trying to call relatives, contacting the funeral home and trying to fill the void, that dealing with grief is put off to the side because you “simply can’t deal with it right now.” Again, I want to say that it is okay to grieve ,and it is necessary for us to grieve.
In one of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture, and it happens to be the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 reads “Jesus wept.” Jesus Christ, God the Son, is pictured here weeping over the loss of his friend Lazarus. Now, what is so significant about this, is that Jesus said earlier that He is “the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25) and then we see later on, that Jesus is going to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why is Jesus Christ weeping? Could it be that Jesus, who has the power to raise people from the dead, has felt the sting of death and knows what it is like to lose someone? Our losses in life and our grief are not unknown to God; in fact He himself has felt the very pain of grief, as demonstrated in Jesus weeping in response to death.
The reality that God is not unaware of your pain provides the greatest of comfort. In Psalm 56 we see that every single tear that you or I shed is known by God, and the Psalmist writes “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.”(Psalm 56:8). God is the God of all comfort, and He is there to comfort in and through times of grief.
Yet for the Christian, we grieve in a different way, as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Thess. 4:13 “that you may not grieve as others who do not have hope.” Yes, Christians do grieve the loss and feel the pain of death, but their response is not like others. They do not see that death is an end of life, rather a doorway to the life after. The immaterial aspect of a person’s being (i.e. the soul) lives on, even when the physical body dies. Furthermore, if that individual had faith in the Lord, that person’s soul is in the very presence of God, at peace and forever at rest.
Talking about death can be a very difficult topic for a whole host of reasons. Nevertheless, death is a certainty of life and going back to the question posed by Cassian Folsom; Do you see death as a thief or as a messenger?