Mourning with hope. How can mourning be hopeful? But the Bible says exactly that, believers must “sorrow not…as those which have no hope”.
…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 (1Thessalonians 4:13-14).
Exactly a year ago, my dad, Rev. E.A. Mante died after a short illness. My dad is my hero. I learnt faith and perseverance from him as he endured through his life, a situation he himself called his cross. His dedication to the Lord’s vineyard was exceptional. There are many things to say of him, but for me personally, he believed in me and the gift of God over my life. While alive, he insisted I attend a seminary to build me up in serving the Lord well.
On the day of his burial also, I experienced something that left a lasting impression on me. While the family took turns to pay their last respect, I understood in a profound sense the scripture that says “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4).
While I stood by my dad’s lifeless body, I was engulfed by this sense of peace which made me smile at him. Dada, as we affectionately call him was a christian who faithfully served the Lord. And that was a comfort to my heart . A comfort that gives me joy, knowing he is with the Lord.
This momentary joyful experience however didn’t take away the pain of death we experienced as a family. Death is a reality of life, as natural as birth is. Once we are born, we will die. “A time to be born, and a time to die…”(Ecclesiastes 3:2).
Now when someone dies we grieve and it is appropraite because the Bible tells us “…we should weep with them that weep”. (Rom12:12). But as we mourn our loved ones, God doesn’t leave us on our own in inconsolable sorrow.
For the believer, the Bible and our faith regulates how we must mourn the dead. From the text quoted above, we find this phrase “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”, a phrase I believe teaches us a lot as we mourn our loved ones.
1: Sorrow With Hope
When Paul says “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”, I believe he teaches a very crucial lesson. Our sorrow and mourning shouldn’t be characterised by despondency and hopelessness. For the believer, death is a departure from this fallen world and body into a far glorious place in eternity removed from the sorrows and pains of this world.
As painful as death is, it is also transition from this life into the presence of God. Psalms 116:15 tells us “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints”. Here is a truth so marvellous to ponder over despite the difficulty of the passing of loved ones. In death, God receives His children immediately into His presence of bliss where they will rest from their labour. Our hope is beyond this life. Even in death, we have hopes of an eternal life.
2: Sorrow Without Hope
Because Paul says “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”, it is clear there are those who sorrow without hope. To these people, death ends it all. There is no hope for an after life. But that is not what the Bible teaches. There is life after death and the Bible’s teaching is explicit on that. For those who don’t believe in Christ, when they die, according to the Bible, they are carried to hell.
Death as stated earlier, is a reality we will all face. The death of another human being simply tells us one day we will all die. But death doesn’t end it all. Death ushers the soul into eternity, either eternal life or eternal damnation. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”(Hebrews 9:27).
These two forms of sorrow have two different implications. Those who mourn the dead with hope are those who have a hope of eternal life. However, those who think death ends it all must be ready for the reality of eternal damnation separated from God.
3: Ressurection of The Dead
In the text, Paul again teaches a very important lesson with regards to death: “The Resurrection”. He said “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”. In these words is the gospel; the death and resurrection of Christ. If we believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, then in a similar fashion one day there will be a resurrection of all the dead. We will once again see our love ones who have died in the Lord.
Christ died for sinners and if you believe in Him, then your eternal life is guaranteed. If you don’t, the opposite is true. Your eternity separated from the glory of God is also guaranteed. Faith in Christ has a correlation to our eternal destination.
To all whose relatives have died in the Lord, if you are a believer, be encouraged. Don’t let sadness over shadow the joy that your loved one is in a better place and one day, you will be reunited.
Till we meet again, Dada rest in peace.