Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Grieving the Death of a Loved One

The death of a loved one, is one of the most painful experiences that you will go through in this lifetime. While it is true that death is inevitable, it remains the unspoken topic among family and friends. There is a reason for this. 

It is awkward and scary to speak about the reality of death within the family, because it most often makes family members feel uncomfortable.  Death could touch our life, or the lives of those that we hold dear, at any time, and it is terrifying, and overwhelming. 

The very thought of it grips our hearts so painfully that we almost gasp at the possibly that it could happen to any of us, at any time. 

“Unto God, the Lord belong the issues of death” Psalm 68:20 

While the Bible is primarily a book about life, it also tells us how to discover the key to experience Everlasting Life, and it passionately teaches us how to enjoy an abundant life here on earth. To address this most important issue in life, the aged Apostle John wrote:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

The Bible conversely then is not primarily a book about death, yet it treats the subject of death throughout because death is part of the cycle of life in God’s plan for mankind.

All of us are going to die. Some will grow old and die; some will die at an earlier age. Over our lifetime we will all slowly fade like flowers, and wither like grass (Psalm 103:15). We all will experience aging, illness, and a vicissitude of diverse health related frailties throughout our lifetimes. 

Although we can be thankful for the wonders of modern medicine, and for the intricate skills of dedicated doctors, the fact still remains that death will eventually come to all of us. At death, the body will return to the dust of the earth, and the soul will be carried immediately either into the presence of Christ (for those who die in Christ), or, it will enter into a place called “Hades” (for those who die in their sins still separated from God).

The Importance of a Personal Faith in God

The Bible teaches vividly that those who are saved, will at death go to be with Christ, in a state of conscious bliss, and are immediately in fellowship with Christ. These are they who have embraced Christ as their Savior, having accepted the atoning sacrifice of His shed Blood on the cross (II Peter 1:18-19), for the forgiveness of their sins (Ephesians 1:6-7).

The Apostle Paul declared that  "to be absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8). And later, he says that “to depart and be with Christ. which is far better Philippians 1:23).

Paul longed to be with Christ, and desired to depart out of this world. The interval between death, and the resurrection, is a state of absence from the body, during which time the soul is disembodied, and exists in a separate state; not in a state of inactivity and sleep, for that would not be desirable. The soul is filled with joy and peace, enjoying the presence of God, and praising Him. 

The soul waits eagerly for the resurrection of the body, when both body and soul will be united together again. After that, there will be no more absence, neither from the body, nor from the Lord:

“….and to be present with the Lord.”

This was promised to Christ in the Everlasting Covenant, that all of His spiritual seed and offspring would one day be with Him. This He expected; it was this joy which was set before Him, that carried Him through His sufferings and death, with so much steadfastness and perseverance. 

This is the fruition of His prayers and His intercession, and what all of His preparations in Heaven led to. It is this powerful glorious truth which supports and comforts the saints under all their sorrows here on earth. It makes them meet death with hope, which would otherwise be filled with dread, and burdensome. It is the promise of glory unspeakable that makes us desirous to depart from this life, so that we can to be with Christ, which is far better.

The Comforting Words of Christ

In a time when His disciples were weary, struggling with doubt, and uncertain, as to what lie ahead for all of them, Jesus said: 

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:1-3).

Where is Jesus right now? 

He is with the Heavenly Father in Heaven. (Hebrews 10:12; 12:2; Colossians 3:1; I Peter 3:22) Where He is right now, is where each believer in Him is right now. Not hindered from going to Heaven because we grieve for them too much here, or that we cannot let go. Not trapped here because we have not prayed for the dead enough, not wandering the earth needing to figure out some lost step, or unresolved problem that must be solved before they are free to go to Heaven. If they are His, they are with Him. They are not stuck here, but rather they are wondrously at peace there. Jesus is Love, Jesus is Peace, Jesus is Joy, and so are the emotions and deepest expressions of those who have gone to be with Him.

"So here is what we can always be certain about. As long as we are at home in our bodies, we are away from the Lord. We live by believing, not by seeing. We are certain about that. We would rather be away from our bodies and at home with the Lord. So we try our best to please him. We want to please him whether we are at home in our bodies or away from them.”(2 Corinthians 5:6-9)

When the spirit of a Christian leaves his body it goes immediately into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

"For we know that if our earthly house (  our physical body ) passes away, we have a dwelling place for our soul from God, a dwelling place not made with hands, ( like a house is made ) but is eternal in Heaven. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.” 

To pass away and immediately leave one’s body, causes the human soul to move from the body we were born with, and pass that very second, into the presence of God. 

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?”(I Corinthians 15:53)

It is somewhat like leaving one room, and walking into another room. In this sense we pass through the door to be with God in Heaven, but are unable to pass back through to the physical temporal world here on earth. God places an inestimable value upon the moment of our homecoming to Heaven.

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15)

The Challenge of Aging and Illness

When the Bible speaks of how we as human beings experience our lives in a physical body, it expresses that we who are in this body do groan, (aging, feeling unwell, and struggling with the physical trials of this life) being burdened, and desiring that one day our mortal physical bodies will pass on into the presence of God, so that we will feel no more pain, no more sorrow, and shed no more tears.

“He will swallow up death in victory: and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off their faces.” (Isaiah 25:8)

Once we become converted to Christ, God has given us the Spirit to live within us while we live in these physical bodies, as a guarantee, that one day, we will be free from this life to live forever with Him in Heaven, and also with our loved ones, who have gone on before us. (II Corinthians 5:17-21).

For the Christian who has walked with God for many years, death is more often faced with a sense of anticipation. He can look at death like a prisoner, awaiting release from prison; like a schoolchild, when the end of the term is near; like a migrant bird, ready to fly south; and like a person in the hospital, ready to go home. 

More often the senior believers among us, begin to think more of the wonder of Heaven that awaits them, as they recognize their time is near. There will finally be a release from the pain and suffering in their aged bodies, and they long to be set free to be with Christ. To be a Christian at the sunset of one’s life, more often sheds a different perspective about death than one who has just began to live their lives.

What Happens to the Soul when we die?

Some teach that the soul sleeps after one passes away, but you will not find this taught in Scripture. You will find that Jesus says that it is the physical body is sleeping when we die. 

"He said to them, "Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.' And they ridiculed Him." (Matthew 9:24) "These things He said, and after that He said to them, 'Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.' Then His disciples said, 'Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.' However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead.'" (John 11:11-14) 

This means that his soul was not in his body at that moment because he had died. The miracle was not waking Lazarus up from a deep sleep, but in calling his soul to reside back into his dead body. This was a miracle that proved that He was the Messiah. Only the Messiah could raise someone from the dead according to Old Testament prophetic teachings. (Luke 7:21-23)

Saint Paul made it clear that our spirit leaves our body at the moment of death, and immediately goes to be with the Lord. However, our bodies are in a state of sleeping (or in a state of waiting, not indwelt by the human soul after death, until they are resurrected).

"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep (or who have passed away before us), lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus."  (I Thessalonians 4:12-13)

The Greek word here used for sleep (death of the body) is not the same Greek word that is used for a person who is sleeping as we all do at the close of every day.

"For this we say to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ (the physical bodies of those who have died previously), will rise first. Then we who are alive and still living in our physical bodies, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).

Those who have died already are in Heaven with the Lord. When Christ returns with them, He will take the bodies of these people, and resurrect their physical bodies into a glorious resurrected body, and He will put their spirit, back into this glorious resurrected body! This body will be like Christ's resurrected body. Then those who are alive on earth at this time, will be given a glorious body a split second after those who have returned with Christ get their new resurrected bodies.

"But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the First-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the First-fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming." (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

The Human Body after Death

What if a Christian died and their body has been burned up? What if they died at sea and their body is lost? What if their body is totally destroyed and there is nothing left of them?

Do you think anything is too hard for the Lord? He made us from the dust of the earth to begin with, so if He has to start all over again, that would not be hard for Him! The Apostle Paul wrote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: 

"But someone will say, 'How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?' Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain-perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body" (1 Corinthians 15:35-38). 

"Jesus said, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)

If we have repented of our sins and believe in Jesus, we have eternal life which starts now. 

"He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." (1 John 5:10-13)

The Strong Desire to be with God in Heaven

We might also want to leave this life and be with the Lord, but He needs us here to finish the ministry of reaching out to others, and showing them the way to find peace with God, by accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Jesus told the one thief on the cross when he was about to die, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) This was after the thief had seen his need of salvation and had asked for help from Jesus. He had said,  

"Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom."

What a simple prayer, he just admitted he was a sinner in need of salvation. He asked Jesus to remember him. Now he is in Heaven with the Lord, the very day he died physically his spirit was sent to Paradise.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on! says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” Revelations 14:13

Where will you go when you die?

When speaking about Heaven and how to get there, Jesus told doubting Thomas this:

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)

If you have doubts, and are not certain, about where you will go when you die, pause right now, where you are, and pray this simple prayer of faith:

"Heavenly Father, I know I am a sinner in need of salvation. I want to go to Heaven when I die, Father, please save me. I believe that Jesus Christ is your Son, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I believe that He died on the cross for my sins, and that He was resurrected again the third day. Father, I repent of my sins, and I invite Jesus Christ to come into my life, by Your Holy Spirit, and make me a child of God. Lord, I give my life unreservedly to you. Thank you Heavenly Father, in Jesus name amen."

It is Painful to Lose Someone that we Love

Our hearts do grieve, and we deeply feel the bittersweet loss of a loved one when they die. This sorrow is also tinged with the peace of God, knowing that they are with Jesus in Heaven. When know that we ourselves one day, will approach the borders of death, and we are mindful of the fact that those we leave behind will be lonely, and will grieve at our passing. 

The knowledge that we are leaving behind loved ones, and friends, will be painful. We grieve for the sadness, and loss, that they will experience at our passing. In The Quiet Place, our focus will be turned toward Heaven …where Jesus Christ will await us, at the moment of our death, with arms wide open. 

The Quiet Place has an Eternal Perspective

Sadly, many people today do not care to know God, and have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, so they do not have an eternal perspective on life. Many speak lightly and casually about death and eternity.

Perhaps they have such an attitude to hide some of their deep feelings of fear, and uncertainty, that they have concerning their own death. 

Those who are genuinely committed to serving Christ, can truly enjoy life today, even in the midst of the trials and storms of life, because death is not a constant dread. We think about it. It brings sadness to our hearts, but we are not terrified of it. Deep down within our heart, we know that “to die is gain.” For the Christian, it means, “to depart and to be with Christ which is far better.”

From the Quiet Place to our Heavenly Place

Medical science can help people die a relatively painless death, but only the Christian message of hope through Jesus Christ can help us die in victory, with a heart filled with God's peace.  None of us know the hour, the exact place or the specific way in which our life will end. The uncertainty of life and the certainty of death, should cause us to make a daily commitment to follow the Lord more devotedly. It should also create within us, the burden that flows from His heart, to our heart, that others must know God’s gracious and merciful plan of Salvation, found only through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

As we live our lives here, we are His voice, we are His hands, and we are His feet; God wants to genuinely lead each of us to people who are hurting, lonely, hungry, and thirsty, and who are desperately lost, and need to discover how to begin an intimate relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

There is a test as to whether your mission on earth here is finished: if you are alive, your mission on earth is not finished.

"…in the ages to come, Christ Jesus will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us. Even the hard times which we face in this life are products of the kindness of God.” (Eph. 2:7)

New Book by John Krohn


Grieving the Death of Loved One by John Krohn  $19.95  Journaling Workbook format

The pathway of grief is one of the most painful pilgrimages that any person will ever take. Those connecting points in our lives that link us to one another in a family and establish bonds of love, security and meaningfulness, are woven with cords entwined with intimate devotion, and have a myriad of memories laced within their tapestry. When one of those significant love connections is broken, our whole being cries out with profound pain that flows from our deepest heart. It is scary to think about losing a loved one, and we are numb and feel dazed with such overwhelming grief to experience that loss.

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