Grieving with Hope

Jessica Bratt Carle

READ : 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Those who are asleep. (v. 13)

Sleep was a common euphemism for death in Paul’s day. His task was to help the Thessalonians learn how to respond to death now that they had become Christians. For those with pagan backgrounds, the idea of resurrection was new and strange. Paul doesn’t go into detailed speculation about the whats and hows and whens of our future life. He simply reassures his hearers that they can trust in the power of God to do with the dead what God did with Jesus—raise them to new life.

Notice that Paul doesn’t say they shouldn’t grieve anymore now that they know about the promise of resurrection. He says they will grieve differently now. For Christians, this means that we still mourn the loss of those we love. Their absence is hard to bear, even if we are comforted in believing that they are in God’s presence. But in the midst of our bereavement we also live into the mystery that death doesn’t have the final word.

As a chaplain, I’ve frequently witnessed the mysterious, sometimes heart-wrenching experience of watching a person depart this earthly life. I don’t have answers or explanations for the tough questions that loved ones may cry out, nor can I alleviate the grief they are going through. But often powerful comfort for the moment can come in the form of a prayer of commendation, where together we entrust the dying person into the hands and safekeeping of God, for all eternity.

PRAYER

Comfort us, O God, with the promise of resurrection.