Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hope in Grief?

For the last several weeks, I’ve been struggling with the idea of my loved ones grieving. I know after I leave I’ll be way more than fine, but what about my family and friends? How will they be? I’ve been putting myself in their position, thinking about how I would feel if one of them were dying.

I’ve been feeling like I’ve had a rug pulled out from under me. I've been feeling like everything I’ve learned about death and dying, which has been so helpful to me, is useless in the face of their grief.

I know in my head that they are God’s responsibility, not mine, and I know I will see them again, but there is still the concern, there is still the pain of their pain. There is still the wondering if they’ll be okay. Will they be okay?

This morning I sat down to read Revelation. I knew there was some stuff in there about the New Heavens and New Earth and I was curious. I read Daniel yesterday for the same reason.

Instead of learning about the New Heavens and New Earth, I learned about how deeply God cares about me and for me; about each of us and for each of us. I learned that He cares about my eternity and He also cares about me now; that He cares for my loved ones' eternities and that He also cares for them now.

So, what does that really mean? How does that really help anything?

Well, there is Eternity. There is hope for Life to come. There is the promise of Revelation 7:15-17

"... and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and He will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

This is repeated in Revelation 21: 3-5

"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.
He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,
and God himself will be with them as their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning,
nor crying,
nor pain anymore,
for the former things have passed away.
And he who was seated on the throne said,
"Behold, I am making all things new." "

And this first part has been huge for me. Really huge. Huge because if I live with the framework of eternity in mind, the here and now stuff isn’t as hopeless. It can still be terrible, but it is not, it cannot be, the final word.

The final word is that Jesus tells us, "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Revelation 1:18

Death’s days are numbered. And when Jesus comes back, death is going to be annihilated, blown to smithereens so minute no trace can be found.

I find that very hopeful. These promises for the future help me keep stuff in perspective.

But what about right here and right now?

What about today and tomorrow, and tonight?

What about the families who’ve been separated from fathers or mothers or brothers or sisters by death?

What about the horrors they’ve seen as the people they loved most suffered?

What about the ravages that some people experience while dying?

What about the people who had no time for closure, whose loved ones have died or been killed suddenly?

That’s what I wanted to know: What about NOW, what about this life? What hope or comfort do we have RIGHT NOW?

I read The Shack last week. I know it’s controversial and I really don’t care. What it helped me understand much more fully is that God is in me and with me all the time. He’s not a spectator; He is in it with me. That’s not a promise for the future, that’s a reality right now.

And He will be in and with my family and friends too. He won’t just be looking on analyzing and observing from a safe distance; He will be feeling and comforting, weeping with them and wiping away each of their tears, He will comfort them and probably even remind them of a funny memory.

I remember a while back when my pastor said that God feels our pain. I remember it because I was startled. I was startled because I had this sort of subconscious idea of a god who was watching me suffer from afar, possibly thinking “Sucks to be her, how awful.” or something trite and lousy like that.

It hadn’t occurred to me that my God was feeling my pain with me; that it hurt Him too, that it grieved Him too.

The story of the death of one of Jesus’ loved ones shows an example of this in real life. How did Jesus respond to His friend’s death? He wept. He felt pain. He was "deeply moved and troubled in spirit." Read John 11....

He’s not some far off pie in the sky god who doesn’t feel or care. He’s not a god who wants us to suck it up and push it away and pretend it’s not happening.

As I read the beginning of Revelation, what amazed me most was how intimately involved God is with us, that He knows our hearts and minds, He knows our needs and our weaknesses, and He is with us in every single bit of it, forever. He chose to be in it with us for forever.

Seriously, check it out. It’s in chapters two and three.

And this is my hope as I anticipate leaving those I love—it’s in knowing that Jesus is with and in each of them; and that He will never, never ever, leave them or forsake them.

My peace comes from knowing the hope they can have right here and right now and in the hope they can have in His promises for Life everlasting.


  1. I'm not sure that I would have felt the way I do now before you started this journey, Martha, but here's what I know now. God will lead me to you when you go Home, and then you'll be able to walk along with me on my daily walks, and you'll know how I feel, and you'll know what I think, and we might even have a laugh or two along the way. Maybe more than one or two... Because of YOU I'm not afraid for you to go Home, because I know you won't be out of reach... just as God is never out of reach. While your going Home sooner than I would like makes me sad, Martha, you'll never be far away. And I'm okay with that. Because of YOU.

    Love, hugs and prayers. So much of all these things.


  2. Awesome! Thank you. This is very comforting. Don't you worry about me. I'll be fine in Jesus' arms :) Love you and hope to see you latertoday! Annie

  3. You're so encouraging Karen. I know you know this, but none of this good stuff is me, only God could make something good out of terminal cancer : )

  4. So many times our Good Shepherd (John 10) confirms your message to us, He knows us, loves us, keeps us (Psalm 121), feeds us (Psalm 23), He is our comfort, He is our peace (John 14:27), and we rejoice that you belong to Him and that He is accomplishing His eternal and temporal purposes in you and through you.
    And that is why we have peace, peace not as the world gives but as He gives, overflowing abundant peace. Love you lots and lots!!!

  5. Henrietta,
    You are amazing and I thank you for answering the questions that I set before you with this one post. I know you will watch over us beside God. I can see you pointing me out saying OMG look at what she did this time. Love you and look forward to your signs when you are not of this earth. Love ya, Freida

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this with me. I think it's amazing that in the mist of all you are going through, you are concerned about us...those you will leave behind. I am going to definitely use this to reflect on in the future, and remind me of who you are and will always be...a friend, but most importantly a sister in Christ....Jae

  7. hey M- I started reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn, and I'm really excited about gaining some of the perspective that you have. Thanks! and I'll keep in mind some of our cancer jokes...sorry, no prayer shrine, tho'. :) Those promises in Revelation are so incredible. J & my fav's are in Isaiah 61, describing the healing, hope, and joy Jesus brings.

  8. Chs 2 and 3 are my favorite chs of Revelation. I love those parts of the letters to the churches where Jesus says "to him who overcomes...." And also the first parts of each of those letters where words describe Jesus.

    Awesome and Rich.

  9. there is hope in grief because there is hope in Jesus and He knows where to take me from here. thanks for writing that.