“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. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV).
We look for answers, but often answers never come. I think we feel that we would be better able to cope with tragedy if we could know and understand the reasons behind it. But the truth is we will likely never understand the senseless acts of violence such as those at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Words of comfort fall miserably short in the wake of this kind of destruction. The void left behind by those who would play God in determining the destiny of other individuals is too great for mere words to fill. Even time cannot remove the painful sting of a life cut so desperately short.
Yet we feel the need to offer words of comfort, knowing full well that they will not be enough. Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15 ESV). Weep we do, and weep we will. We are further encouraged to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 ESV). When one member of the body hurts, the whole body hurts.
Jesus said that those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). It’s a promise! He didn’t say that we shouldn’t mourn; it’s a natural and necessary process. But He did promise comfort. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a ESV).
The lead text from 1 Thessalonians offers us hope for the future. We will be reunited with those we love, who have preceded us in death. Yet another promise! “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55 ESV).
I’m under no delusion that my words will bring any immediate comfort to those who are in the midst of mourning. But, I believe that the Word of God can and will bring comfort. “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return empty, but it shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 ESV).
If you are mourning a great loss, I mourn with you. If you are not, mourn with those who do. But let us mourn with hope, for He will bring comfort.