13 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.
At some point in our lives, we’ve experienced grief. Many things cause us to grieve, and grief sometimes seems never to end. Grieving isn’t only brought on by the loss of a loved one, either. Grief can be caused by the loss of a dream, a relationship, and fellowship with good friends. Grief is characterized by a feeling of loss. Perhaps the deepest sense of grief relates to the loss of a loved one or someone dear. The gaping hole of that loss sometimes seems overwhelming. When we feel we’re spiraling downward, the vast net of hope catches us.
Grieving with hope sounds really odd and is very different from what we’d expect. The hope that sustains us, as Paul was outlining to the Thessalonians, doesn’t remove the grieving. It changes it. The cause for the grieving stays the same. But hope says this isn’t the end; there’s more to this than meets the eye. In C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Weight of Glory”, he says “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal … it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit.” So, the hope we grieve in is one of ‘the rest of the story.’ It’s not so odd after all.
Paul isn’t saying not to grieve. Not at all! He’s telling the Thessalonians that, during their grief, the hope they cling to will be realized when they are reunited with those believers who went before, whom they are grieving. He’s telling them that, when they grieve, woven within their grief are many threads of hope. Grieve with hope.
The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of our hope. In His resurrection, death was defeated, and believers receive life eternal. That brings us comfort, helping us cope with our grief and journey through it. Read the following passages slowly, perhaps even in a posture of prayer, letting the words soak into your heart and soul, and consider the hope we have in Christ.
10 fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
There are so many ways to help withstand grief, to adequately work through it, to process it. One way this can be accomplished is to write a psalm of lament. If you’re like me, I was never able to write poetry that would please my teachers. But, in this case, this is between you and God. Sharing with others is certainly up to you, but you can pour out your heart to God and it will please him. Take a few moments to rest your heart and mind, then put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write a psalm of lament over your grief. The lyrics to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “With Hope” might be able to help you.
By Rich Obrecht