We Are Those Who Grieve With Hope
There is a brief moment in the human experience when the doorway between mortality and eternity opens and we are ushered by death to the other side. Instantly everything temporal and mortal is wiped away and a new eternal consciousness floods your souls. Yesterday, Marcia Mcgee was quietly whisked through that doorway. We were left behind. I can only imagine the sheer joy that she was experiencing as we sat quietly beside the hollow shell she left behind. I have sat with many families as they grieved the passing of loved ones. It is always surreal. Memories of the previous days flood over us as they recall final words, moments, and memories that are now seared in their consciousness forever. A broad spectrum of regret, joy, and appreciation overwhelm those left behind. However, the heaviest impression is the finality. Nothing can be taken back, redone, or reconciled. Their mortal life is complete; their earthly story is written. However, the grief we felt and the tears we shed were not from sorrow but from joy. Joy that she was such a loving mother, loyal friend, and faithful Christian who played such a significant role in our lives. It brought to memory the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18...
 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,(1) that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, 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.
Paul does not forbid grieving for the lost but there is a certain way that Christians grieve, “that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (vs. 13). Christians grieve with hope. Hope founded on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have hope because Christ conquered death by His resurrection. Our grief no longer hopelessly fears that we have lost our loved one to eternal judgement and separation. Rather we can grieve with hope knowing that the sting of death has been defanged and is now a servant of God’s glory. Robert Konemann, one of my pastoral mentors, put it like this, “Death once was a cruel taskmaster who ruled viciously but who now been humbled and made a servant to usher people into the presence of its Master.” Death is the means by which God brings his people into His glory. Furthermore, those left behind have the hope that we will be reunited with them in God’s glory. Paul teaches us that Christ will return again to gather all his children together both asleep (dead) and alive. He will gather His children into His kingdom to rejoice forevermore, without the encumbrances of sorrow, pain, and mourning. All, who are joined by faith in Christ, will be made new and will join the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us to worship the Lamb forevermore. The Gospel tells us that all who put their faith in the atoning work of Christ no longer bear the burden of the eternal wrath of God on sin. Christ took our punishment so that we could have his righteous life eternally (Rom 4:5). Therefore, death is not to be feared as a cruel bandit that steals away the ones we love but the means that God brings them into fullness of joy in the magnificent presence of God’s eternal glory. Finally, Paul tells us that not only should this be an encouragement to Christians (vs. 18) but we should be faithful to encourage fellow believers with this truth. This is especially applicable to those of us who remember how precious Marcia was as a part of our church, families, and as a friend. Her sweet nature, gentle voice, and encouraging words will be sorely missed. We will honor her memory through tears and laughter, with inspiration and thankfulness. All the while we will be reminded of how precious the promise of the Gospel is to those who trust in Christ. One day, in the blink of an eye, those who believe in Christ will join Marcia and the heavenly chorus of the faithful to worship the Lamb of God who reigns forever. Our joy will be complete. Our hope realized. Our faith made sight. What a day of rejoicing that will be!
Soli Deo Gloria