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“Earthquake leaves 100 dead in New Zealand.” “Car hits pedestrian at CCSU.” “Man murdered in Bristol.”
I find watching the news to be an incredibly frustrating experience. Over the span of 30 seconds, we are told about a tragedy that has happened in a nearby town – “man murdered in Bristol” – and then, when that 30 seconds is up, it’s on to the next story. For the majority of these tragic stories, they so quickly become yesterday’s news, as life goes on for most of the world. But for the family of that murdered man… life will never be the same. When that 30 second story is about someone you love, life as you knew it has stopped. You are left picking up the pieces and trying to make sense of life, while the rest of the world has already forgotten and moved on to the next tragedy. And, of course, that doesn’t even take into account the many others whose tragedy is not newsworthy, but simply shows up as one of the twenty obituaries in the morning paper. For the rest of the world, life goes on – another day, another death, another tragedy. But for you, life has forever changed, and there is no “moving on.”
It may be a week, it may be five years, or it may be thirty years since you lost your loved one, but today, I want to grieve with you and remind you of a few important truths.
(1) Death is an enemy – Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:26, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death is not a friend. It was not God’s intention from the beginning, but entered the world when the first couple rebelled against God. And now, because of sin, all die: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). Losing a loved one is a tragic thing, and we should never minimize the heartache.
(2) Jesus wept – If you’ve ever struggled with memorizing Bible verses, start with the shortest one, John 11:35 – “Jesus wept.” I love that verse. At the tomb of his friend Lazarus, knowing full well that he is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus cries alongside his friends at the tragedy of death and the pain it has caused his friends. This is the Son of God, and still he weeps. And even before he raises Lazarus from the dead, he tells Lazarus’ sister Mary, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Then, to prove that His words are true, Jesus brings Lazarus back to life. Be comforted that you are not alone in your grief; Jesus cries with you.
(3) Jesus has destroyed death – Death is not the end. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57: “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Or, as the writer of Hebrews put it, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). When the New Testament writers speak of death, they call it “falling asleep,” a beautiful and poetic way of communicating that for the one who knows Jesus, death is like going to bed at night and waking up in eternity. And one day, we know, death will be no more: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4).
(4) We grieve, but not like those who have no hope – As Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 – “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and it is right to grieve when we lose a loved one. But we do not grieve as one who has no hope. We grieve as ones who know that death is not the end of the story, but that death has been swallowed up in victory.
Paul tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15). For those of you who are still in mourning, allow me to mourn with you and to thank God for the life of the loved one you have lost. And if you know someone who is mourning today, remind them of your love and prayers for them, and that you have not forgotten the loved one they have lost. Thank you Lord Jesus for overcoming the enemy that is death, and we ask for you to comfort all who are grieving today. Amen.
(This Pulse was written in memory of Ray Labbe, who died two years ago today, February 24th. We have not forgotten you.)
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