Hope in the Midst of Grief
1Th. 4:13 ¶ But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (NRSV)
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. (NIV)
There was a concern that the believers in Thessalonica were uninformed regarding what happens to those who die in Christ. The pagan society in which they lived mourned terribly the death of their loved ones. For them there was no hope — everything was finished. The person was gone forever and therefore the weeping and the mourning rose to levels of intense grief. Paul did not want the believers to be living in this ignorance.
For believers death was often referred to as “sleep.” The two different translations above help us to see this comparison and the idea of sleeping in death is what brings us hope. The word “Cemetery” comes to us from the Greek word “koimiterion” which means “sleeping place.” It was a word that originally meant a place to bury the dead in a church yard and hence the terminology. This is a very Christian understanding of death for to be placed in a Cemetery brings with it the hope and understanding of Christianity.
Those who die in Christ die with hope for they simply fall asleep in him and are resurrected at his return. Paul knew that there was pain associated with the death of a loved one, but he did not want the believers to carry on as the pagans who had no hope. He knew there was hope! Yes, there is hope in the midst of grief because for the follower of Christ this death is only temporary and there will be a great time of reunion which lies ahead. This is the promise for those who find themselves in Christ and is the comfort of hope in the midst of grief.
The God of all comfort loves us and wants to reach out to us in the midst of our deepest pain. God knows what it’s like to watch your son die.
Jesus loved Lazarus and stood before his tomb and wept with the family.
But in the midst of all the pain there was hope. Jesus broke the power of death and was resurrected.
Lazarus burst forth from the tomb and while he is again “sleeping” he will rise again.
And we cling to this hope that we have in Christ. The Cemetery is but a sleeping place where our loved ones await that day when we will all be gathered up to meet Christ in the air. Yes, this truly is our hope.
He is Risen! And his resurrection is our resurrection giving us a new hope that breaks beyond the bounds of this world. There is hope in the midst of grief when we continue to seek his face and begin to see from his perspective.
Lord, thank you for the hope given to us in the midst of grief. Amen.