Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that in this lifetime we will have trouble, and in the wake of trouble comes grief. Grief is a common human experience. We all know what it is because we’ve all been through it or are in it now. So, the real question is not “Will I experience grief?” Live long enough, and you surely will. The real question is “Will I handle my grief biblically?”
That question is massively important. As you well know, grief is a heavy burden and can crush you if not handled rightly. It can lead to depression, despair, and making a shipwreck of your faith. I pray these four lessons will help you become equipped to handle grief biblically and battle for joy.
This week’s tool for handling grief biblically is the hope of resurrection. Lazarus got sick and died, and I assume from the context of John 11 that his death was way before folks normally died in those days. Surely, Jesus could have healed Lazarus’ sickness. Even if He couldn’t have travelled in time to Bethany from where He was, He certainly could have healed Lazarus from afar like He did the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:5-13). But Jesus didn’t. When Jesus arrived, He found Mary and Martha grieving deeply and rightly so. They loved their brother. Grief is a natural and good response to loss. However, they and the townspeople were all saying the same thing to Jesus, “If you’d been here, he wouldn’t have died,” (Jn 11:21,32,37). But, Jesus had a greater purpose: to demonstrate the hope of resurrection. And resurrect Lazarus He did!
Let me point you to four truths from our text that will help us grieve biblically. First, death is not final. Notice that Jesus likens it to sleep in John 11:11, and that’s a very fitting metaphor. Sleep is just for a little while, and then you awake. It’s the same way with death. For believers in Christ, after the soul separates from the body and goes to be with the Lord, that body lies in repose for a relatively short time but will be reunited with the soul and resurrected when Christ returns (1 Thes 4:14-16). Undoubtedly, you miss those whom you love, but death is not final. There’s life after death and eventually a resurrection of the body.
Second, God weeps when you weep. I find great comfort in John 11:35. Here’s Jesus with all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling bodily, and He’s weeping because His heart is broken for Mary and Martha. Friend, I don’t believe that was just a one-time event. The heart of God is moved when you face loss and grief. You have a God who loves you and desires to comfort you. I pray that you’ll turn to Him and let Him whisper into your heart, “Resurrection is coming.”
Third, there will be a reuniting of loved ones. The text doesn’t tell us, but I bet there was tons of hugging and rejoicing at Lazarus’ resurrection. I believe the same will be true at our resurrection. I pray that we’ll fight to desire to see our Savior first and foremost, but one of the gifts and joys of Heaven is reuniting with our believing loved ones.
Fourth, God is glorified through the resurrection. Notice what Jesus says there in John 11:4. God will be glorified by the resurrection. This truth should cause us to be inwardly, joyfully expectant when our believing loved one dies. God is going to glorify Himself and do something awesome in the resurrection, namely triumph completely over sin and death. It’ll be a glorious day, and death is a whetstone, sharpening our expectation and hope.
May you add the hope of resurrection to your toolbox against grief.
-This article first appeared in the March 30 edition of the Baptist and Reflector, the official newspaper of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, as a commentary on the April 3, 2011 LifeWay Sunday School curriculum Bible Studies for Life, and can be accessed through the B&R website at http://www.tnbaptist.org/BRARticle.asp?ID=3766. The article has been slightly edited here for westmainbaptist.com.