Sooner or later we will all have to face the death of a loved one. It's an inevitable part of life, and it can be a painful experience. For many, learning how to properly handle the loss of a loved one and cope with grief can be incredibly difficult.
Christians are faced with the loss of those they care about even more so, because we belong to a bigger family: the church. In the body of Christ, God blesses us with many brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers. All are dear loved ones whose spiritual bond with us will never be severed (Mark 3:31–35). Even in death.
Despite knowing this, death still brings anxiety, anger and sorrow. There is nothing wrong with grief in the face of death. Jesus himself wept over the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35). This suffering, though, can be used as a tool to bring us closer to God. In the moments we feel shattered and helpless; we can take comfort in knowing that the Lord is sitting by us.
Here are some ways that death can bring us closer to our faith.
We are encouraged to rely on God's strength.
Grief encourages us to rely on God’s strength, but by doing so also reminds us of the strength we already have within us. When something triggers our grief, it often feels like a wave of sorrow overpowering us. We can’t stop missing our loved ones who have passed away, and we’re powerless to bring them back to life here or to visit them in the afterlife. We may also feel like we’re stuck in some unhealthy places as a result of our grief, such as dealing with depression, obsessing over regrets from our relationships with late loved ones, or living with nostalgia for the past so much that we’re not embracing the present. It’s only through God’s strength that we can overcome the challenges grief brings into our lives. Grief makes us aware of how much we need the Holy Spirit to empower us to deal with those challenges well.
Grief pushes us to pray more.
Grief inspires us to pray more, which helps us develop a closer relationship with God. We want our Father to help us in our grief, and become the shoulder we can lean on when days seem unbearable. The more we reach out to God in prayer, the more He gives us the comfort and encouragement we need. This, in turn, inspires us to keep communicating with Him. Prayer always draws us closer to God. While God won’t remove the voids that have been left in our lives from the deaths of our loved ones, He will enter those voids and embrace us in His love. We are reminded that we are not alone, and that we always have someone we can trust and talk to.
There’s hope beyond the grave.
Grief doesn’t need to be suppressed, nor does it need to bury us. Job, in the middle of his troubles, makes an incredible profession of faith: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25–26). Passages like this remind us that there is hope. Because God exists, there is life beyond the grave. Death doesn't mark the end, and the loss is not permanent. Jesus has been able to give us an avenue into heaven, and your loved ones will be there waiting for you with open arms when it's your time to come home. Death can be painful, but it's also a reminder that there is a life with God waiting for us where we will never face pain or suffering again.
Death reminds us to hug those on earth a little bit tighter.
Grief helps us value other people more as we miss the people we’ve loved who have died. Appreciating the people around us becomes easier when we see them through the lens of grief. We are reminded that we are still surrounded by other amazing children of God. They are precious souls who are still present with us so we can still enjoy their company. Who hasn’t wished for more time with loved ones who have passed away? While we can’t be with people who have died until we get to heaven ourselves, we can be with people who are still alive and make the most of our time with them by building loving relationships. God reminds us that even in times of despair, we have a support system around us with other fellow Christians.
We reflect on how we are living out our lives.
When we are faced with the death of someone, especially someone that was young, we pause to reflect on how we are leading our lives. What legacy are we going to leave behind if today suddenly ends? We’re less likely to waste away our valuable time and energy on empty pursuits, and more likely to devote ourselves to pursuing God’s purposes for our lives when we’re grieving. Grief puts heaven at the forefront of our minds, reminding us that we’ll go there ourselves someday if we have a saving relationship with God through Jesus. When we get there and meet Jesus face to face, do we really want to look back with him on a life full of excessive television watching, shopping, gaming, or other pursuits that wasted the resources we could have spent on what has real value?
Although grief is difficult, we can learn to deal and cope with the pain by trusting in God. When we choose to start looking at the death of a loved one as a way to get closer to our Father, we’ll encounter unexpected blessings. We will be given an opportunity to grow in our faith. One day, God will personally wipe away all our tears and bury our grief for good.