Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

In yesterday’s post I began cogitating on the implications of the fact that, as the first act in the new creation, God will wipe away our tears. I suggested that this action of God reminds us of the pain and brokenness of this life. Today I’ll address the second of my three basic questions:

1. What does this reveal about life?
2. What does this reveal about how we’re to live in the meanwhile?
3. What does this reveal about God?

2. What does the fact that God will wipe away our tears reveal about how we’re to live in the meanwhile?
According to Revelation 21:4, one day God will “wipe every tear” from our eyes. Then, “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” What a great day that will be! So how should we live in the meanwhile?
a. We recognize the reality of pain and suffering.

This mostly reiterates what I said yesterday. As Christians, we recognize the reality of pain and suffering. We don’t pretend that the world is perfect. We don’t act as if we have transcended all suffering. We don’t claim to have “victory in Jesus” today that insulates us from all difficult. We don’t believe that if we just have enough faith, we can “name it and claim it” and all will be will. (When I last checked, even the “name it and claim it” faith preachers get old and die. Hmmmm.)
If we take seriously the brokenness of our world, we Christians should not be shocked when bad things happen. Tragedies are part and parcel of our fallen world, which is “groaning as in labor pains” (Romans 8:22). When terrible events occurs, when people do what’s wrong, we should not be surprised . . . . grieved, yes, shocked, no.
b. We grieve, but differently.
Yes, as people who believe that God will one day wipe away every tear, we grieve differently from those who lack this confidence.
1 Thessalonians 4 provides a salient example. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul addressed a touchy situation in the church in Thessalonica, a fellowship he had founded not long before he wrote the letter. Paul had taught his converts that Jesus would return and they would be “caught up” to meet him. But when some of these new Christians died, their fellows believed that they had missed out on the return of Jesus. They were grieving, not only because their friends had died, but also because they thought they had missed out on the life to come.
Paul wrote to reassure the Thessalonians. Those who die before Christ returns will, nevertheless, be included among those who welcome him back to earth in his second coming. Paul began his counsel with these words: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13). Notice what this verse does not say. It does not say that we should “not grieve, as others do who have no hope.” Rather, it says that we should not grieve in the manner of those who have no hope. In other words, grieving is a part of this life. We share grief with all human beings. But we grieve differently because we do so with hope.
Christian hope is not wishful thinking, by the way. It isn’t believing that everything will always turn out hunky-dory in this life. Rather, Christian hope is confidence in God’s future. It’s believing that there will be a time when God will wipe away every tear, and when mourning itself will pass away. Christian hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus, the sure sign of the victory of God over sin, death, and suffering. And so we grieve, yet with faithful confidence that frames our grief.
In the past, when I’ve talked or written about grief in these terms, people have sometimes challenged what I’ve said. “Aren’t we supposed to rejoice in the Lord always?” they ask. “How, therefore, can you commend grief as part of the Christian life?” I’ll answer this question in my next post in this series.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus