Comfort for the Grieving
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” – Isaiah 40:8
Here at the end of the second week of Advent we look at comfort for those who are grieving a loss. One of the hardest things to face at Christmas time – or any time – is the loss of a loved one. Sometimes a loved one passes away around the holiday season, and their passing becomes forever linked to that time of year. Every Christmas becomes another memorial to the pain of that loss.
When confronted with the reality of death (especially of a loved one, but also our own eventual death), we often make one of two errors at this time of year. On the one hand, it is easy for us to give in to despair. This is not just a temptation for those who are unfamiliar with Christian belief and practice, either. Paul writes this letter to a church; even pastors and mature believers can become rattled to the core by the reality of death and begin to despair.
On the other hand, because of misguided ideas about “hope” and “faith” and the biblical message, we can begin to think that it is actually wrong to grieve. But Paul does not tell his readers not to grieve; he tells them not to grieve as “those who have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13). We should remember that even Jesus, who showed that he had the power to raise people from the dead, wept over the death of his friend Lazarus (Jn. 11:35).
One of the easiest ways to draw comfort from the Christmas story in times like this is to look at God’s remarkable promises. Throughout this devotional there has been a parallel drawn between Christ’s “first advent” (the story of Christmas), and his “second advent” (the promise of his second coming). We should remember that the same God who promised that Jesus would come is also the God who promises that Jesus will return. In the New Testament whenever the subject of death is addressed, the Apostles point to Christ’s second coming as the strongest reminder that life beyond the grave is a reality. “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thes. 4:16).
Another way to draw comfort is to consider God’s eternal patience. God was there at the beginning of creation. God outlasted all the generations of believers who looked forward to the first Christmas, and even if the earth were to dry up, and the sun were to burn out, long after our deaths, God will still remember us.
But perhaps the most powerful way to draw comfort from the Christmas story is to consider God’s loving intention. God knows what it is like to lose a loved one to death; but his son was sent into this dark and broken world to undo the damage that death has caused.