Proper and Improper Sorrow

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

God created humans with a variety of emotions. We all will experience both laughter and deep sorrow in this life. But Christians should grieve differently than the world. How so?

1. Christians should not live for the things of this world.
What happens when people or things that we love are taken from us? We grieve. But when we place our ultimate hope in these things or people, our grief knows no limits. Paul would write about this when discussing the resurrection:

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

When we limit our hope to the people or things of this life, how will we react when those things are taken from us? We will lose our way quite quickly. God has given us families and friends to love and help share the load. But our ultimate hope must be placed in God alone, who cannot be taken from us (Hebrews 13:5).

2. We should ponder what death really means.
In a sense we die, but in a sense we don’t. We die physically, but we do not cease to exist. Our souls remain quite alive and conscious. For example, when a loved one dies in Christ, we will still grieve at our loss. But will we grieve as the world does? We should not, because we know they departed into the arms of God. We will miss them and even cry at their death; even Jesus cried (John 11:35). But we will soon come to grips with the higher reality, they went to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). The truths we learn in Scripture will awaken us to the joys of God’s promise of eternal life:

“In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2).

Promises were not given us to provide temporary hope in a hopeless situation. God gave them as a down payment on a future reality. God will make good on all His promises, including the promise of eternal life.

Christians still experience the full range of emotions in this life. We grieve, but not as the world grieves. We grieve differently. We do not experience spiritual meltdown at a funeral, and our world does not cease to exist. We grieve, and perhaps cry, but then God comforts our hearts with sweet consolations of a painless world to come.

We should come to the aid of the hopeless, and point them to Christ. God will lift their spirits and point them the way to eternal life.

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