Recently, I experienced compounded losses. Two of my dearest friends passed away within a hand’s breath of each other. Their passing was deep, bone-jarring, the kind that fillets your heart and leaves the raw exposed. But the sweetest comfort came to me through God’s presence. His tenderness melted into my fractures, seeping into every pain-filled crevice of my heart. He fulfilled His promise to be the Comforter. Held, I heard His whispers as scriptures beckoned me to behold their beauty. Laid open as I was, there were no filters between the Word and my heart, just a steady soaking of layer upon beautiful layer of promise. I beheld their unfolding in my life as the verses caressed my soul and withstood the test of sorrow. One passage in particular emerged, shimmering above the others, to me.
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thes. 4:13-18).
It’s a passage I’ve often heard quoted at funerals. Typically, the minister is painting a portrait of the lovely hope that a believer has. If the deceased died in the faith, then those left behind have hope of meeting them again in the resurrection. The emphasis is on the person who has passed. Their faith-walk, put under the microscope of death, provides comfort if they lived the Christian life. The gift to those left behind is a reunited eternity. If the departed made it to glory, then those left behind who also have enduring faith will meet them again. Therein is the hope.
But I’ve also experienced another side of that scripture. The emphasis is on the manner of grieving. Having visited with others with whom I’ve shared these losses, I see the difference. Believers have a different kind of sorrow. It’s not contingent upon the deceased’s walk of faith. Rather, it is about their own. Having their own eternal hope gives believers a different approach to loss. They are held by the Comforter. All that has become raw and exposed is caressed by Him, not trampled by hopelessness and despair. Anchored in trust, the filleted heart is buffered from doubts, not pummeled by the questioning unknown. Brokenness, though a hollow place for tears and pain, is eclipsed by peace and a God-touch that’s exquisitely sweet.
Humanly speaking, I like keeping my loved ones within easy, tangible reach, attached to me and the life I’m living. I’d abolish expiration dates; there’d be only birthdays and forevers. But if I must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, then I want to walk through it with the Ever Present One, the I AM, the God of hope who fills me with all joy and peace in believing, so that I may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost (Romans 15:13). His words bring me comfort and His presence brings me peace; His holy fills the hollow.
Tip/Tidbit: In every empty place, there is room for God’s infilling. Let Him touch where it hurts. Embrace His wholeness where you feel the most lack.