1 Thessalonians 4:13 – Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. (NIV)
Years ago, when I was a seminary student, I spent a whole semester as an assistant at a church in a deprived area. It was a very humbling experience, for it taught me how much faith people can have, even when they have so little of anything else. I remember one poverty-stricken senior couple whose faith shone in their home, at their church, and anywhere else they happened to be in the community. Alex and Bessie were such kind-hearted, good people, and they really exemplified what it means to be a Christian. I felt that I had been blessed to know them, even though it was for such a short while, and they helped me shape my ministry.
Years later, I happened to be in their neighbourhood, and I met Alex walking in the street. "How are you, Alex, and how's Bessie doing these days?" I pleasantly asked.
A pale sadness came over his face. "Bessie died a couple of months ago, John," he said. I told him I was sorry and asked him how he was coping with his grief.
"I'm okay, John," Alex answered. We were both silent for a while, and then Alex asked me a question that has never left me.
"John, what do people do when they lose someone they love, if they have no faith?"
Throughout my years in ministry, I have seen the answer to that question unfold. People with faith accept death as part of the journey that leads to eternal life. They believe that their loved ones in the Lord are in a better place and that one day, through the Lord's grace, they will see one another again.
But people without faith are lost and fearful of death. They get angry with God and end up being bitter, lonely, isolated, and depressed. They cannot cope with their loss, because they have no hope of future eternal happiness.
That's why we're Christians, and that's why Christ wants us to share His gospel — His good news — with everyone. He doesn't want to leave anyone bitter and lonely, fearful and lost, because that's what hell is like. Rather, He wants to embrace them in the midst of death and dying, to give them hope and everlasting life, because that's what heaven actually is.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, what would we be like without faith? How could we cope with pain and loss, death and dying, loneliness and grief without having faith in You? Come into our hearts and minds today. Grant us peace and belief, comfort and strength, hope and assurance. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.
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