“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, NIV84)
Something that we Christians have to keep in mind is that there is a difference between us and the rest of the world. We have hope, while the rest of the world does not. This fact may not be discernable on most days. We are all buzzing along a million miles an hour trying to get everything done that needs to be done. We are trying to stay on top of things with our computers and smart phones. We can get and send messages in a moment. It is amazing to me that in my lifetime there have been more time-saving inventions than in any generation previous, but the complaint is still the same, “There just isn’t enough time.” So we get up early and go to bed late. We burn the candle on both ends just trying to keep up. At that moment we all look the same.
But then it happens! Someone near us dies and the world seems to stop moving. All of a sudden none of that stuff that kept us so busy matters much anymore. During these hours/days in which we have to face death, we are forced to face our own mortality. We, too, are going to die. Every day we live we are one day closer to when we will live no longer (at least in this world). It is at these moments in time that our hope is there to get us through. You see, hope in Christ doesn’t prevent bad things from happening. Hope in Christ provides us the certainty that He will get us through those bad times. Christians and non-Christians both grieve at the loss of a loved one, but we Christians are able to grieve with hope. We know that there is life after death. We know that Jesus, and all the saints who have died before us, are there awaiting our arrival. This is the kind of hope that matters! Our hope is not a weak simple wish. It is the certain hope that just as Jesus died and rose again we, too, will rise. We grieve with hope!
I mentioned earlier that we need to keep this difference between us and the rest of the world in mind. Why? Because they grieve, too. But they grieve with no hope. We need to use those moments to witness to the certain hope we have in Christ. Moments like death, that all human beings have in common, are a great opportunity to witness to our God of hope.