The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

God's People Grieve

 

Can you remember an instance when you refused to cry? Perhaps as a youngster you were defeated soundly in fist fight. Or not so long ago someone humiliated you in front of a group of peers. A well-loved friend betrayed you. Yet another case may have occurred in the wake of a family tragedy. You had to appear strong and together for the sake of your children. Holding in one's emotions is often considered the manly thing to do. It's the American way. This is so, unfortunately, even when it's time to mourn over the death of a loved one.

 

Grieving is not a sign of weakness. It's actually quite human. Following the death of the Lord's dear friend, Lazarus, the apostle John records that "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). Needless to say, he was not embarrassed to weep. Grieving is a natural part of life just as surely as death is a natural part of life. God created us, after all, so that we might love our neighbor, not lose our neighbor. Even so, sin takes our neighbor from us and leaves in his or her place a feeling of emptiness, pain and loss. To say it a little differently, while death is a natural part of life, accepting death never comes naturally. All the Gospel in the world will not stop the flow of tears at a Christian funeral.

 

What does it mean to "grieve?" Grieving, quite simply, is how human beings deal with the death of a loved one. As every person grieves, so do God's people. Grieving is how you and I cope in the aftermath of death as tremendous changes are thrust upon us, often with little or no warning. On the one hand, much of our grieving is unique. On the other hand, much of it resembles the grieving others do. A well-known writer (Elizabeth Kubler Ross), who has written in great depth on the subject of grieving, speaks of "five stages of grief." Speaking as a psychologist, she does not provide the Christian with every tool for dealing with the loss of a loved one. However, she sums up fairly well what believers too will experience in the aftermath of death. They are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some people, during their grieving process, may observe that a given state is skipped. However, even the most healthy form of grieving will involve, at the very least, the last two stages described in greater detail below. Furthermore, there are two possible conclusions we may draw within each stage, depending on whether we have consulted God's Word.

 

 

Denial You are unable to absorb your loss.

 

My Conclusion as a Griever: I Can Escape Reality or be Eased of My Pain.

 

Note that in each instance where people draw one of two possible conclusions, one is healthy and the other is not. In addition, there is to some extent truth in the assertion that we cannot place a time table on a given stage of grieving. However, there may also be some relevance to the statement that it is time to move on.

 

Shock and Confusion

 

Have you ever been so surprised by life, that you had no idea what to do next? You were utterly dependent upon someone else to take the initiative and determine how to get things back on track. Such is often the case when a loved one dies, especially if it happens unexpectedly. You may expect at least some shock and confusion when death suddenly transforms your life. Will someone be there to guide and encourage you? Or will you be the one to whom the family turns for help and support?

A Reason to Plan Your Own Funeral

 

This first stage of grieving demonstrates why some will advise you to plan your funeral in advance. How will your surviving spouse or children cope in the immediate hours or days following your death? Will they have the ability to make necessary arrangements or delegate others who can help, such as contacting the pastor and the funeral home?

 

Psalm 90:3-12

 

Inasmuch as our life will not last forever, we are encouraged to set our sights on God's mercy not our ability or our family's ability to keep things together.

 

Matthew 24:44

 

If you were to die today, would you be prepared to leave everything you know and love? Would your family be prepared for you to leave them?

 

Numbness

If you've ever been stung by a bee or stubbed your toe, you know the meaning of the word "numbness". Numbness eases the pain. If you've ever felt the numbness brought on by grief, you know that for a period it too serves a purpose. But, as with every stage of grief, numbness must run its course. You needn't fear feeling what you can feel.

 

The Free Falling Christian

 

We may consider our losing consciousness a gift if we were free falling from a plane and suddenly discovered we had no shoot. We may also see as an indication of God's graciousness when we're overcome by extreme sorrow - our ability to block out the hurt. In time it occurs to us, however, that our Lord has provided us with a safe landing. We may open our eyes. When you feel what you can feel, you may serve whom you've been called to serve.

 

Romans 12:15

 

Rejoicing with those who rejoice may mean celebrating memories. In time such memories become much easier to welcome.

 

1 Corinthians 10:13b

 

Even if you are feeling overwhelmed mentally, God will not give your faith more than your faith can handle.

 

Detached from Friends and Family

 

Are you tired of hearing people tell you: "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear about your loved one!" Perhaps you've felt if you cannot shut people up about death, you can shut them out. The result, however, will surely prove unfortunate. If you avoid other people, you will have no chance for interaction with those whom you need most. God promises that his Word which others relate to us will keep its relevance no matter what our circumstances.

 

Defective Coping

 

It may be said that people either cope with life's changes or they do not. There is coping that is beneficial, and there is coping that is not. Defective coping is to retreat from family and friends, those who can actually help you through the process. It is can also result in avoiding your own callings.

 

Luke 21:34-36

 

No one will cope with this world's final changes relying on his own means. We pray that Christ through his means of grace would enable us on the last day to stand before him.

Luke 21: 28, 33

 

Christ's message concerning redemption and delivery from sins' many consequences, enable us to cope with life's changes and anticipate that the Lord's greatest blessings are yet to come.

 

Living in a Different World

 

One of my sisters when she was young had the tendency every once in a while of sleeping walking. All of a sudden you would see her standing before you with her big round eyes, and it was obvious she was in some other world. We soon learned at such times that it was not the best idea to wake her up. She was often traumatized when she suddenly learned she was not where she believed she was. So we encouraged her back in the direction of her bedroom, hoping she would find her way before awaking.

 

Retreating from others in one's grief in severe cases can mean living in a different world. Beware of those who in their grief keep to themselves. Perhaps they lack initiative. They would rather not interact with other people. It may be that they would rather not wake up, but remain in the secluded world they've created for themselves. However, we all need to be around people. God created us to be there for others, and others to be there for us.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

 

Our faith is not a private matter. It is intended to be confessed. The meaning of the word "confess" is to "say the same thing." We comfort others with the same comfort with which we have been comforted.

 

 

Anger You make an emotional attempt to deal with your loss.

 

My Conclusion as a Griever: I Can See Death as Someone Else's Fault or as "The Wages of Sin"

(Romans 6:23).

 

There are four ways survivors exhibit anger when a loved one dies. In each case, they choose to assign blame for the death of the loved one. One may blame the death on given circumstances, that is, on God himself. One may blame a loved one who's left them behind. One may blame other family members or friends. Or one may blame oneself for the death of a loved one.

 

Anxiety and Frustration (You blame the circumstances. "It's God's fault!")

Anxiety, like anger, is an emotion which interferes with one's ability to accept one's loss. It is triggered when a person discovers he's not in control. "What's going to happen now?" he questions. "If God was not in control tending to this loved one of mine, how do I know he's in control tending to the rest of my family and me?" Frustration is what you experience when you sense you can't get your life back on track. Life will never again be the same. Imagine the distress related with losing your hearing as a musician or your sight as an artist. Perhaps, in losing your loved one, you have lost your biggest support in life. Yes, you have been afflicted with a handicap, but it is not life lasting.

 

Grieving as a Handicap

 

Grieving may prove a handicap when anger prevents one from receiving needed support from loved ones. Instead of turning to others for strength and encouragement, the grieving may lash out at God, questioning his judgment in the matter. Three questions are common at this point.

 

Was it God's will?

 

This first question is the plea for more information from God. God gives us all the information we need in his Word. Most crucial to our needs, is information concerning God's Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Isaiah 53:10

 

God is not to be blamed for any suffering in this world. While God the Father caused the suffering of his Son, sin remains the reason for all suffering. The fact that Christ was punished for sin teaches us that suffering will not have the last word.

 

John 6:40

 

It is not always clear what God's will is concerning life's blessings and how they're packaged. What is very clear is God's will for all. Even today we have eternal life. And on the last day we will enjoy his resurrection of the dead.

 

Was God punishing him or her?

 

Any suffering in life may present a paradox for the Christian. How can a loving God permit such an awful situation, unless he or she or I have rejected God? If we are honest, of course, we will acknowledge that Christ's sufferings serve as the greatest contradiction. The apparent contradiction is resolved, however, when we consider how the Son of God took on human flesh so that he may be punished in our place.

 

Luke 13:4-5

 

Sinners have always tried to reconcile God's will with tragedy. When death and disaster strike, one thing of which we can be sure is that God wants us all to repent.

 

Isaiah 53:4-5

 

Jesus suffered our griefs and our sorrows. By the Father he was smitten and afflicted, pierced and crushed. The stripes we deserved he bore for us. That's the only thing we may conclude regarding God's punishment. Christ received what was rightly ours. And as a result we receive peace and are healed.

 

Why didn't God prevent him or her from dying?

This question suggests that because I can't understand God's will, I can't accept his will. This we can understand and believe. God's desire is to spare us from evil.

Deuteronomy 29:29

 

Yes, God has his secrets. His will with respect to his life cannot always be understood. However, he lets us understand what we need to understand. The result is that we may receive direction and comfort for our daily lives.

 

Isaiah 57:1

 

We are incapable of understanding God's timing when he takes a loved one to his eternal home. What we may understand in every case is that his purpose is not to deprive us of his love and support. His purpose in every case is to rescue one of his children from the evils and sorrows of this earth.

 

Has the world's sin made God less powerful?

 

Hebrews 12:11

 

Everyone disciplined or chastened by God has the choice to either blame God or to endure. God's purpose is to bring us peace. In the end we realize that we are still privileged to live according to his will and believe that through Christ all is well between God and us sinners.

Philippians 1:21

 

When we know the person and work of Jesus Christ we are in a no lose situation. We may be content living a longer life here on earth, or living in eternity in heaven. We may have the same outlook about our loved one, both before and after death.

 

Christians should remember that God never delights in suffering or sorrow. What you or I may perceive as tragic or devastating, our Lord has the power to use to achieve his gracious purpose. Yes. The timing of one's death is God's will, as it is God's will that we benefit from life's trials. However, we may not regard as God's will the pain or grief which results from death and which makes death seem so awful.

Isaiah 42:3a

 

What a magnificent promise! God will neither "kick us when we're down", nor will he "put us out of our misery." He will neither give our faith too much, nor abandon us when our faith falters. This truth assures us that he will sustain us in our faith no matter when or how a loved one is removed from our life.

 

Romans 8:28-30

 

The word "for", which links verses 28 and 29, is crucial for understanding this passage. As surely as God works every event surrounding us each day for our good (verse 28), so has he planned from eternity to bless us in the greatest way, electing us to heaven. Verse 30 lays out God's sequence of works in our lives, assuring us that his gracious plan for you and me as individuals cannot possibly be derailed.

 

Resentment (You blame others. "So-and-so wasn't there for him or her!")

 

The blame you direct at other individuals may range from your loved one who has left you to others in the immediate family. We complain, "Surely, she should have taken better care of herself! If she really cared, she would have found a way to stay we me!" Or we grumble, "He could have done more to help his wife during her illness!"

 

Others in the Family

 

Have you ever been so mad that the only way you knew how to deal with your anger was to kick or break something? Naturally, it did not improve matters. When we hurt, we may hurt a loved one in return, or we may deal with our emotions constructively. We may push our family away, or we may look to one another for support and strength.

 

A natural reaction, especially if a death is sudden or tragic, is to protest: "Mom wasn't there for him! She didn't listen sufficiently to him when he was complaining about his pains. She should have insisted that he be scheduled to see the doctor!" Dad was disengaged!" He didn't care enough to observe what was going on in her life! Couldn't he see what stress she was under, that her health was under attack? The signs were all there!" It is common when the family especially needs each other for members to resort to finger-pointing. Unfortunately, when you point your finger you end up standing alone, relying on only yourself for encouragement and comfort.

 

Genesis 2:16-17

 

Inasmuch as God's Law is clear and we are all sinners despite how clear it is, we have ourselves to blame for our eventual death.

 

Genesis: 3:4-5, 12-13

 

As with Adam and Eve, Satan wants us to deny that death is in our future. When Adam and Eve were first faced with the prospect of dying they blamed everyone but themselves. We tend to follow their example, finding fault first with others.

Romans 12:12-16

 

No matter what our grief, we are called to be supportive of others. As surely as we offer others our support, we can expect to receive support ourselves. This is so, despite the sin which plagues each and every one of us.

 

The Doctor or Hospital

 

Everyone knows you can't make a car run forever. Yes, you can spend considerable time replacing this part and that, the tires, the transmission, the brakes etc. But every vehicle eventually is bound to find its way to that junkyard beyond. Human beings are like cars. As difficult as it may be to admit, you can cheat death for only so long. When you lose a loved one you want to blame a particular doctor for prescribing the wrong medication. You criticize him for performing the wrong surgery, giving the wrong advice, or for simply not being in tune with the situation or not caring. In the end, however, you have a simple choice to make. You can trust your doctor's expertise or you cannot take any chances. If you do accept his help, remember that your consent does not make him omniscient.

 

Romans 5:12

 

Have you ever been tempted to blame Adam for the fact that all must die? You might find that rather silly and unproductive. Death may always be explained by this simple fact. Every one of us is born and bred a sinner.

 

James 4:13-15

 

We make a lot of plans in life. Living as sinners in a fallen world, however, no earthly blessing, not even life itself, is a sure thing. This is true even for those whom we may regard as healthy.

Guilt and Shame (You blame yourself. "It's all my fault!")

It's "written all over my life!"

Guilt is what you may feel when a loved one dies. You may feel you should have insisted your husband have one more checkup. You should have gone with him to the doctor. You may even feel that you caused his stress which led to a certain complication in his health. Shame is what you may experience when you feel marked by your guilt. You've heard the expression: "It's written all over your face." People know you're guilty, so you might as well not hide the fact. Shame is something you may feel is written all over your life. You imagine that everyone knows what happened. Somehow they know you're guilty.

 

This raises an important question. Are you as a survivor experiencing shame because you're convinced you're supposed to feel guilty? "Why would I feel that way?" you ask. The answer is, despite the death of your loved one, you're experiencing relief. A great burden, caused by your loved one's condition, has been removed. A very stressful and draining experience is finally behind you. Perhaps you are ashamed to admit the relief you are feeling. However, such relief is natural under the circumstances, and more to the point, is what your Savior, the Divine Physician, intends for you.

 

Philippians 4:4-9

 

Feelings cannot be just thought away, whether we level them at others or at our self. We may, however, let the Word dominate our feelings. When we are convinced by the Word that the Lord is near with his grace and forgiveness, we are able to rejoice in his blessings and enjoy peace, despite our feeling of guilt.

Matthew 11:28-30

 

The "heavy laden" are those feeling the effects of the Law, which to a large extent is the feeling of guilt. "Rest" is what the Lord provides in his Word, forgiveness for the sinner. The "yoke" or "burden" we feel on account of the Law is quite light when compared to the rest and relief Christ offers our soul in the Gospel.

 

The "If I only . . ." Syndrome.

 

Many who grieve will lament: "If I only had been more observant, more educated about the symptoms, more proactive" etc. But remember that hindsight is always 20/20. What's more, as surely as every sinner is prone to make mistakes, so has every mistake, even the potentially tragic one, been covered by the blood of Christ.

 

Colossians 2:13-14

 

If you want to look back, don't look back at what you did. Look at what your Savior, Jesus Christ did. Everything that once stood against you Jesus once and for all has nailed to the cross! Never again can it accuse you!

 

Psalm 103:12

 

If the Lord has removed your sin "as far as the east is from the west" that would indicate that it has been removed infinitely, and there is no place for it to remain. Either we let it remain on Christ, or by choice we let it remain on ourselves.

 

Can God's will be done despite my shortcomings?

 

It's easy for a survivor to beat up on himself or herself following the death of a loved one. Should you do so, remember that however a death occurs, it never takes place outside of God's will or power.

 

Deuteronomy 32:39

 

The timing of one's death is God's, not the evil which may be associated with death. Your sin or negligence or stupidity, if you prefer, is not more powerful than God's gracious will who receives the soul of a fellow believer at precisely the time he chooses.

 

 

Bargaining You make a rational attempt to deal with your loss.

 

In this phase of grieving you are basically attempting to bargain with God. Instead of listening to God for comfort from his Word, you want to call the shots. "If I do this or that, will you take away my feeling of loss?" Will you make things better, like they were?

 

My Conclusion as a Griever: I Can Think to Myself: "Woe is Me" or "Woe is the World."

 

Everyone dies inasmuch as sin has contaminated each and every individual. For the same reason, the world too is destined to expire one day. You find hope in the future, knowing that despite sin's effect on all things including the earth itself, sin has no say regarding the believer's future in heaven with his Savior.

 

You Attempt to Hold on to Your Former Life.

 

It's a very common attribute of grieving. You don't want to move on. You don't want to endure your feeling of loss. You want to turn back the clock. Some who grieve live in the past. You refuse to break old habits. You stay at home, for example, rather than go out on a given night. You do so out of fear of being disloyal to your loved one. Others who grieve try to recreate what they have lost. You expect another family member to replace the person for whom you mourn, providing the happiness once offered by your loved one. As futile as it can be holding on to the past, we can always hold on to the promises of Christ concerning the believer's new life in heaven.

 

Romans 7:24-25a

 

Do we recognize that we have a truly wretched life, contaminated in every way by sin? If so, we shall have no difficulty yearning and anticipating the resurrection of the dead.

 

John 20:17

 

Mary Magdaline is told by Christ not to hold on to the past. Her Lord was rejoining his Father in heaven. She too should move on. In doing so she may comfort the disciples.

 

You Attempt to Move On, but in an Unrealistic Way.

 

When you know you should move on but are not truly committed to doing so, your attempts may serve as little more than a distraction. Middle-aged and older adults, for the sake of change, may move into a new house or change jobs. Young people may busy themselves with additional activities at school, getting involved with after school sports or placing a greater emphasis on their studies. Much of this may serve as a fine use of time. However, any attempt to move on may actually be an attempt to escape.

 

On the other hand, you understand something about not making the best use of your time. In school you resented "busy work". The teacher knew how to keep you on task, but in your opinion you weren't being the least bit productive. Keeping yourself busy in your grieving may sound good. In many instances it may be productive. But be careful it isn't merely an effort to get your mind on something else. To move on following the death of a loved is not a sign of disloyalty. It is your opportunity to find meaning in your life where Christ continues to lead you.

 

An Interesting Way of Grieving at a Funeral

 

Some cultures have an interesting way of mourning on the day of the funeral. They hold a huge party called a "fiesta." Are they celebrating the joyous life promised a believing loved one after death? Some I would imagine will argue that they're simply "drowning their sorrows." Or we may suggest that their joy is artificial and forced, or that they are trying to rush the grieving process into its final stage.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

As surely as there is "a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" so is there a time for grieving and a time, apart from or despite our grieving, to enjoy life as God intends.

 

You Struggle to Find Meaning in What's Happened.

Life lacks meaning when life lacks focus. Our life lacked purpose when we were ruled by sin with no hope for a future with God. Christ, however, has overcome sin and death and has therefore restored life's meaning permanently.

 

Psalm 22:1-5

 

Christ was abandoned by his Father while he suffered the agonies of the cross. In our place he suffered the consequences of sin. As a result, we may be assured that God always hears and answers our pleas for help. He will provide us with encouragement and strength when we're feeling alone.

Romans 8:28-39

 

We are confident as God's elect that nothing in this world, not even death or life's greatest tribulations, can separate us from his grace and his salvation.

 

 

Depression You are unable to deal adequately with the death of your loved one, and your loss begins to sink in.

My Conclusion as a Griever: I Can Flee from God or to God.

 

Everyone who mourns as a choice between seeking the help God offers and gives in his Word, or despairing and abandoning God.

 

Overwhelmed and Helpless

 

Anger is an emotional reaction to death. Bargaining is an attempt to react rationally. Depression may include both elements. The rational or mental aspect of depression is not experienced by everyone, but is felt by many. Furthermore, it's more than a sensation. Some who grieve are convinced that they cannot cope in death's aftermath. If you sense you are overwhelmed following a loved one's death, more than likely it is because you have convinced yourself you cannot handle life's change. Nothing is more humbling than death. Perhaps it has occurred to you that your life has been overpowered by a seemingly random event. There is nothing random, however, about Christ offering, giving and sealing to you his gifts of forgiveness and salvation which he earned for everyone on the cross. Rest assured your life will find the right support and foundation when you begin taking your eyes off today and consent to focusing on your final destination.

 

Romans 6:3, 5

 

Even the thought of death spurs thoughts of helplessness. However, every day we die to sin on account of our Baptism. The word "baptize" means to be "washed". On a daily basis we are washed by Christ's death. If by our Baptism we may believe Christ's death is of benefit to us, we may surely believe his resurrection is of benefit to us. On a daily basis we live a new life anticipating the life of glory to come.

Sense of Loss

 

The sense of loss, to a great extent, is an emotional reaction to death. If you are experiencing a sense of loss, you may conclude nothing more than that you live in a sinful world. The experience of grief is something your Lord himself would not avoid. He would know our every sorrow.

 

Why did Jesus grieve if he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead?

 

John 11:35

 

Why did the all-knowing Lord grieve if he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead? It was just a few verses later that he declared: "Lazarus, come out!" And we're informed that: "The man who had died came out." Why did Jesus weep? For the same reason we grieve when we are confident concerning the final resurrection. The account of Lazarus's resurrection is a magnificent sample from the life of Christ demonstrating on the one hand this he is truly God, and on the other hand that like us he is truly human.

 

Isaiah 53:3a

 

Jesus was acquainted with grief as a fellow human being. Because he is man he was capable of knowing the very same sorrows we know. In fact, he was capable of bearing every one of our sorrows so that he might be smitten and cursed by God in our place.

 

 

Acceptance You accept your loss.

 

My Conclusion as a Griever: I can Accept Defeat or Celebrate Christ's Victory.

 

To accept the death of a loved one or your own death is not to accept defeat. When you believe in the power of Christ's death and resurrection you have already gained the victory over sin and death. You know your sin has received its full payment. You also know that on the last day, when you put on your resurrected flesh, sin and death will be swallowed up forever (1 Corinthians 15:54).

 

Welcoming Life's Options

 

For some, it takes months to reach this point. For others it takes years. You learn what it means to "move on" in the right sense. You accept the fact that every vocation in life must eventually run its course. Yes. Being deprived the privilege of serving in a given calling is difficult. However, you now have more time to be a son, a daughter, a father, a husband, a wife, a mother, a Christian friend.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:4

 

To be stuck in the stage of depression may indicate that you are lacking a thorough understanding of the doctrine of vocation. Do you feel an obligation to grieve, out of loyalty to a spouse or a parent or a child? Solomon teaches us that we may rejoice and even dance following a loved one's death. Inasmuch as this believer has moved on, in time we too may move on according to our Lord's gracious plan.

 

A New Plan in Place

 

In time, most people accept life's changes in vocation brought on by death. The believer, certainly, has a reason for doing so. You know God has a plan, a wonderful plan. Regardless of whom you've served in the past, the Lord promises to provide through you, supplying the needs of those whom you continue to serve.

 

Job 1:18-21

 

It is very obvious to the Lord's people that both his giving and taking promise incredible blessings. In the one case we are honored. We get to serve as the Lord's instrument and provide for this fellow believer whom God has placed in our lives. In the second case, this fellow believer is honored. He now gets to serve in the presence of his Savior–those who have preceded us in the faith.

 

Luther answers what it means that Jesus is our redeemer and what application this has for the survivors in the wake of a loved one's death.

 

". . . That I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity" (Meaning of Second Article.)

 

By the death of Christ, our Father does more than declare us righteous. He assures us that our callings will serve as a blessing to others. Similarly, by the resurrection of Christ, we are guaranteed more than that we have been redeemed. We are promised more than that believers too will rise on the last day to life everlasting. Even now we may serve him in righteousness, innocence and blessedness.

Resurrection Focused

 

Is it possible to think about heaven too much?

 

Too often families avoid talking with the dying about heaven. Perhaps you can remember talking about former good times with a failing loved one, unaware that he or she would have preferred talking about the next life. If you want to avoid this in the future, answer this question. What will offer a loved one more happiness, what will soon be taken away, or what will soon be given to him or her?

 

Matthew 6:19-21

 

Why shouldn't we think about heaven? What is better: to have a fascination with treasures that are eternal, or treasures that are only temporary?

 

Romans 7:18-19, 24-25a

 

What a day that will be: to escape our sinful flesh with all of its struggles, disappointments and evil inclinations; to escape that which may only promise deficiency and death and to gain the victory of everlasting life with our Savior in all his glory!

 

Philippians 3:20-21

 

If our citizenship is in heaven that means heaven is our ultimate destination. It's where we eventually will belong! And if heaven is our final destination, we are both entitled and encouraged to look forward to our life there, where our lowly imperfect bodies will forever be transformed and glorified.

 

Philippians 1:21-24

 

We obviously would not want to become so enthralled with heaven that we neglect our callings in the current life. However, should it every become uncertain which way things may go for you or a loved one, of this you may be sure: You are in a no lose situation. If you or a loved one should live, you have the opportunity to deliver to others God's blessings in this life. If you or a loved one, however, should die, you will be privileged to be with Christ your Savior, which is better by far.

 

John 11:25-27

 

Jesus knew he would resurrect Lazarus from the dead, and yet he speaks to Martha of the final resurrection and believers' final victory over sin. He did so that he might provide Lazarus's sister with the opportunity to confess the faith. We may be just as confident in our confession. Truly, death is no more certain than what the Lord has given each and every Christian to believe. Do you believe in the resurrected Christ? You shall never die. You too shall rise unto life everlasting!

 

Luke 7:11-17

 

What a remarkable sight! Two processions meet. One is led by a victim of death, the other by the Lord of life! No matter what funeral you attend in life, you may rest assured that the Word of Christ is no less present and powerful for the people of God who have gathered than it was that day in Nain. What's more, as surely as the time for weeping ended that day for a mother and widow, so will all weeping end for God's people on the Day of the Resurrection.

 

John 20:11-18

 

There are two things we clearly identify on the day of a funeral. We see death for what it is, as we view our loved one for a final time laying in the casket. And we recognize the voice of our Savior, who speaks his words of victory and assurance. While our emotions are often mixed on such a day, we know what shall win out in the end. Our joy will cause the message of Christ's resurrection to have a predominant say in our life as we confess to others who mourn that Christ is risen indeed.

 

Luke 24:13-35

 

Pastors often comment that people are the most receptive during the preaching of a funeral sermon. This account of the disciples on their way to Emmaus may help explain. Here Jesus connects his personal history as the Christ with the history of the Israelites. They come to understand in deeper fashion the faith of God's people. The same thing occurs on the day of a funeral. Many are visiting about given memories of the deceased Christian. Much support is given the bereaving. But the greatest comfort and encouragement is delivered by words of Scripture that connect our history as fellow believers with our Savior's. As certain as we may be that this loved one was a believer, that he or she through Baptism was united with Christ in a death like his, so certain we may be that he or she will be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:5).

 

Colossians 3:1-4

 

Talk about heaven is good. Talk about the cross and the resurrection is essential. It centers us on Christ and his purpose as our redeemer. Earning forgiveness of sins for us, the Lord has guaranteed us life everlasting. In the meantime, he will sustain us by his grace until the day when we appear with him in glory.

 

 

A Day to Anticipate: The Final and Everlasting Fiesta.

 

If you ever feel like there is nothing more to which you may look forward, remember that the greatest event and therefore greatest celebration is yet to come, the day when Christ returns in both victory and glory.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

 

Have you ever noticed how from the very first days, we're looking forward to a special day. We're always anticipating a special reunion or get together of some kind. As a youngster it's our birthday. The years go by and it's our first day of school and then the last day of school for the summer. We get older and more educated and we begin looking forward to graduation day. Sometime later it's the day we begin our first job, or the day of our wedding, or the day of a major anniversary.

 

Then the day arrives when we wonder whether we really have any day left to look forward to. Our cherished loved one is not going to be a part of it. But that's when we may remember the greatest reunion yet to come, the day of our Lord's return and the resurrection of every believer on earth. Just think! On that you will see your Savior in all his glory and grace. And you will see your loved one in perfect peace and joy.

 

 

Eternal Salvation: Is it by Chance or by Choice?

My Conclusion as a Griever: There is Nothing Random about Going to Heaven (Ephesians 1:4-5)

 

When my older son was a boy he made the most amazing catch I've ever witnessed in my life. We were attending a baseball game, hosted by the Detroit Tigers. In the second inning a foul ball was hit in the stands over our heads. It was very apparent this was another ball someone else would claim. But as that ball began to ricochet between the seats, it made a sudden change in course. It came bouncing back towards us, slid over my son's shoulder - and while he wasn't looking - rolled down his arm and into his glove. There was no diving catch, no skirmish between the fans under the seats to see who would come up with ball. My son, without the slightest effort, had the ball, remaining oblivious to the whole event. I finally had to tell him: "Peter, you caught the ball!" To this day I think back event and marveling at the seemingly random event wonder: "What are the odds?!"

 

There is nothing random, you should know, about ending up in the hand of God. When God promises to rescue us from the sorrow and misfortune of this world, he doesn't "play the odds" and hope for the best result. Our hope for grace and forgiveness, life and salvation, is not based on chance but on choice, God's eternal choice. From eternity God has elected you to eternal salvation. How do you know this? You may believe this as God has made it official by your Baptism. Your election to heaven, to put it very simply, takes the apparent randomness out of life. You didn't just happen to become a Christian. Neither was it because of something in you that persuaded God to save you. It was according to his gracious pleasure and will. By God's grace he chose to bring you into his Kingdom through Holy Baptism, to give you faith in Christ and keep you in faith no matter what the unexpected trials.