Today I was asked a most sobering question.
“My family member knowingly, intentionally and thoughtfully rejected the saving grace of Jesus Christ and has died in deep disbelief and rejection. How do I deal with this grief?”
Someone who is far wiser than I am could respond much more effectively than I can, but I am the one who received the question and should share my feeble thoughts.
In responding to this heart-breaking question, my mind journeys in several directions.
First, it seems important to feel, thoroughly and extensively feel, the grievous loss. A person you greatly love has died without the hope of eternal life and without a public confession of faith in Jesus for salvation. Your sorrow is well founded.
Our Lord, Jesus, wept at the death of His friend who, without a doubt was righteous. No one knows the response Jesus would have experienced at the death of an unrighteous friend. The Bible doesn’t give us a glimpse into that possibility.
Recently, a very well respected theologian stated, “When Jesus wept, it was Jesus the man weeping. Jesus, as fully God, could never weep.” This troubled my soul. Jesus is fully God and fully human. He can’t be divided into the God part and the human part. He is Him. He is both God and human at the same time and in the same place.
Equally troubling is the notion that God can not cry. I suppose the argument is that a Sovereign, Almighty and All-knowing God would have no sorrow because He fully knows the beginning from the end and everything is both happening and already happened. All reality is, they might argue, past tense for God.
From my perspective, the Bible reveals God as interacting with reality in real time, with real emotions and genuine experience. I am convinced the death of your unsaved family member or close friend deeply moves the emotions of God. When you sorrow, you are experiencing an emotion placed in you by being created in His image. Because He can grieve, you can too.
There may be some comfort in knowing your grief is shared by God Himself. You are not alone, emotionally or in any other way. God understands. He too felt the sorrow of a family member’s death. His Son died with the sin of the whole world on His shoulders. God gets it.
With the inner workings of the human spirit, soul and body being so little understood, there is a measure of comfort in knowing the One who knit your loved one together in their mother’s womb knows everything about everything in their lives. There are no uncovered facts. God knows it all.
God is always fair and just in His judgements. He will always do what is right and just and holy.
Sometimes it feels as if the grief will never end. The Bible mentions the possibility of “sorrow upon sorrow.” The revelation of Jesus to John powerfully reveals God ends the season of grief by “wiping every tear from their eyes.”
It doesn’t feel like it right now, but this sorrow will come to a close because “weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.” There is a measure of comfort in knowing this season of sorrow will end by God’s Personal action of drying our tears.
Turning the loss into longing is vital. People weren’t designed and created for eternal separation, grief and loss. We were hand formed by God for Ideal Condition. Developed for the ideal condition of God’s perfect Garden and to be in His Personal presence, we are not at home and settled in to this existence of our messed up world.
Everything inside of everyone longs for a return to God’s Ideal Condition. Redeeming the loss by transforming it into authentic deep longing for God and His eternal home, is most helpful. In our loss we can find our truest longing.
“So my soul longeth after thee, oh God.”