WHAT ADVICE CAN BE GIVEN TO CHRISTIANS COPING WITH THE DEATH OF ANOTHER SAINT?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Jesus wept” (John 11:35). It is not a sin to mourn the loss of a loved one—even a Christian bewailing a Christian. This is quite natural and not to be discouraged. Expressing such feelings is vital to good mental, physical, and emotional health. Emotions are God-given and not sinful in and of themselves. (Sin creeps in when we use our emotions to make decisions. Emotions are fickle, they change through time, and “feelings” should instead be replaced with logic as touching choices.) If Jesus Christ shed tears as He stood before the tomb of His deceased friend Lazarus, so we can cry concerning the death of loved ones.
Take great comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ was just as human as we are—except without a sin nature. He knows firsthand the sting of death striking the soul as a friend succumbs to physical death. In other words, not only can He be sympathetic toward us, He can be empathetic. He experienced that loss Himself many times while He lived His earthly life. Furthermore, since He designed our emotions, He can relate to us in that regard as well. We are not alone in our grief, displeasure, and pain. He does care, He is concerned, and, above (!) all (!) else (!), He has given us Bible verses of comfort! (We will say more about this a little later.)
Here are some suggestions to bear the loss of a Christian.
Remember the good times had with that dear saint. Gather with mutual friends and family members. Perhaps have a fellowship meal at someone’s house, or assemble at a funeral home, church building, or other convenient place. Mention their quotes, share their testimony, and relate their memorable life stories. Share with others how that departed soul impacted your own life. Above all, celebrate their graduation to glory, their relocation to Heaven! That Christian is no longer suffering any pain. He or she is free from these limited, debilitating, dying bodies of flesh and blood. There is peace and rest. Be sure to give a clear Gospel message for any unsaved people present. First Corinthians 15:3-4, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:23-28, and Romans 4:1-5 are highly recommended as verses to be read aloud. Suffering verses can also be shared—Romans 8:18-25, Romans 5:1-5, and 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:8, to name a few.
The saints in Heaven are singing and praising the Lord Jesus Christ. They are enjoying His presence! All the deceased believers of the ages thus far are in one gigantic congregation in Heaven, and they do indeed recognize each other. Peter knew Moses and Elijah by face, and yet they had died centuries before Peter was even born (Matthew 17:4)! Paul anticipated knowing the Thessalonians and the Corinthians when they would be in Heaven (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; 2 Corinthians 1:14). They know where they are, just as Paul realized he was in the third heaven and knew that it was “far better” up there than down here (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; Philippians 1:23).
We will see these dearly-departed saints again! Never forget, most importantly, dear reader, we will be reunited with them in the Lord’s own time! This is the hope of the resurrection, commonly called “the Rapture” (“catching up”). Our separation is temporary.
First Thessalonians chapter 4: “ But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (First Corinthians 15:50-58 can also be considered here.)
There is no doubt about it, friends. We sorrow, but we have confidence—full assurance—that a magnificent get-together will occur at the resurrection. We are not hopeless. We are not uncertain. We are not ignorant. The verses are clear, simple, and sure. Hold fast to them, repeat them, and let them renew your mind. The indwelling Holy Spirit will use these verses to strengthen your inner man (Ephesians 3:16). Using these passages in prayer will allow God the opportunity to give you His peace, and guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus. “Be careful for [worry about] nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Without question, that Christian would want you all to move on in the ministry in their absence. They would want you to keep fighting the good fight of faith. If anything, may you not take your earthly lives for granted now. Strive together with each other—those of you in the Christian congregation remaining on Earth—to continue as that dear soul would do. Weep, cry indeed, but do not sit around and mope like a lost person. Do not stay cooped up in your house, always sobbing and wailing. We must get the Gospel of Grace out to the masses. We must keep teaching the Scriptures rightly divided to those who want to hear and believe.
Any and all spiritual confusion has been corrected in Heaven, as there are no more denominations and other opinions of men. There are “no hard feelings.” The next time you see that saint, all will be forgiven. No petty argument, envy, or contention will be there to divide or interfere with fellowship. Sin will be gone forever. The next time we see them, they will look, sound, see, and hear the best they ever have! No eyeglasses, canes, baldness, liver spots, hearing aids, crutches, arthritis, tremors, AIDS, tuberculosis, dentures, oxygen masks, missing limbs, wheezing, allergies, blindness, deafness, stooping, prostheses, walkers, limping, deformities, paralyses, wheelchairs, slurred speech, mental illness, scarring, amnesia, dementia, cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, sinus issues, emphysema, diabetes, or any other disease, disability, or deficiency. Obesity and leanness will no longer be problems. No more vitamins, supplements, blood work, checkups, surgeries, hospital stays, kidney dialyses, physical therapy. It is a magnificent prospect, and we will see it at some point ourselves, but until then we have unfinished business down here to which we must attend.
Until we meet the departed saints again, brethren, we have much work left to do—including ministering to their families in whatever ways we can (visiting, phone calls, preparing meals, and so on). These saints would want us to go on preaching the Gospel, speaking of Jesus Christ to all we meet, sharing with others the Word of His Grace, that they may believe on the Lord and be with us in Heaven as well.
In closing, here are two final passages worth considering and worth reading aloud at the close of any Christian funeral, wake, or similar gathering.
“Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight: ) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
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