Death, will certainly come, says a preacher! It will come to us, close to us, or a friend. But how do cope, when someone we love and care about dies?
- Has someone you loved fallen asleep in death?
- Are you still grieving?
- Do you need help in dealing with your grief?
- Is there hope for the dead?
- If so, what is it?
- How can we be sure?
In this article, such questions will receive comforting answers from the Bible. We invite you to read it carefully.
“It Can’t Be True!”
A man relates: “My son Jonathan [names in this article has been changed] was visiting friends a few miles away. My wife, Mercy, didn’t like him to go out there. She was always nervous about the traffic. But he loved electronics, and his friends had a workshop where he could get practical experience. I was at home in Adenta, Accra. My wife was away visiting her family in Suyani, Brong Ahafo. ‘Jonathan will be back soon,’ I thought. Then the phone rang. ‘That’ll be him for sure.’ It wasn’t. It was the police and paramedics. ‘Do you recognize this driver’s license?’ the voice on the phone asked. [He mentioned the driver license number to me]. ‘Yes, that’s my son’s, Jonathan’s.’ ‘We’ve got bad news for you. There’s been an accident, and . . . your son, . . . your son has been killed.’
My first reaction was, ‘It can’t be true!’ That bombshell opened a wound in our hearts that is still healing, even years later.”
A father in Kwahu Obomeng writes, “Back in the Accra where I was a teacher in the 2004’s, we were a happy family. There were Margaret, my wife, and our three children, David, Carlis and Isabel, aged 13, 11, and 9 respectively.
“One day in March 2006, Carlis came home from school complaining of severe head pains. We were baffled as to what could be the cause —but not for long. Three hours later he was dead. A cerebral haemorrhage had snuffed out his life.
“Carlis’s death took place over 13 years ago. Even so, the deep pain of that loss stays with us to this day. There is no way that parents can lose a child and not feel that they have lost something of themselves —regardless of how much time passes or how many other children they may have.”
These two experiences, where parents lost children, illustrate how deep and lasting the wound is when a child dies. How true the words of a doctor who wrote: “The death of a child is usually more tragic and traumatic than the death of an older person because a child is the last person in the family expected to die. . . . The death of any child represents the loss of future dreams, relationships [son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren], experiences . . . that have not yet been enjoyed.” And this sense of deep loss can also apply to any woman who has lost a baby through miscarriage.
A bereaved wife explains: “My husband, Gaizie, had served as a medical aide in the Police Hospital in Liberia during World War II. He had seen and survived some terrible battles. He came back to Ghana and to a more tranquil life. Later he served as a minister of God’s Word. In his early 60’s he began to have symptoms of a heart problem. He tried to lead an active life. Then, one day in July 1988, he suffered a massive heart attack and died. His loss was devastating. I never even got to say good-bye. He was not just my husband. He was my best friend. We had shared 40 years of life together. Now it seemed that I had to face a special loneliness.”
These are just a few of the thousands of tragedies that strike families throughout the world every day. As most grieving persons will tell you, when death takes your child, your husband, your wife, your parent, your friend, it is truly what the Christian writer Paul called it, “the last enemy.” Often the first natural reaction to the dreadful news may be denial, “It can’t be true! I don’t believe it.” Other reactions often follow, as we will see. —1 Corinthians 15:25, 26.
However, before we consider the feelings of grief, let us answer some important questions. Does death mean the end of that person? Is there any hope that we can see our loved ones again?
There is real hope
The Bible writer Paul offered hope of relief from that “last enemy,” death. He wrote: “Death is to be brought to nothing.” “The last enemy to be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26, The New English Bible) Why could Paul be so sure of that? Because he had been taught by one who had been raised from the dead, Jesus Christ. (Acts 9:3-19) That is also why Paul could write: “Since death is through a man [Adam], resurrection of the dead is also through a man [Jesus Christ]. For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.” —1 Corinthians 15:21, 22.
Jesus was deeply grieved when he met a widow of Nain and saw her dead son. The Bible account tells us: “As [Jesus] got near the gate of the city [Nain], why, look! there was a dead man being carried out, the only-begotten son of his mother. Besides, she was a widow. A considerable crowd from the city was also with her. And when the Lord caught sight of her, he was moved with pity for her, and he said to her: ‘Stop weeping.’ With that he approached and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still, and he said: ‘Young man, I say to you, Get up!’ And the dead man sat up and started to speak, and he gave him to his mother. Now fear seized them all, and they began to glorify God, saying: ‘A great prophet has been raised up among us,’ and, ‘God has turned his attention to his people.’” Notice how Jesus was moved with pity, so that he resurrected the widow’s son! Imagine what that portends for the future! —Luke 7:12-16.
There, in front of eyewitnesses, Jesus performed an unforgettable resurrection. It was a token of the resurrection that he had already predicted some time prior to this event, a restoration to life on earth under “a new heaven.” On that occasion Jesus had said: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” —Revelation 21:1,3, 4; John 5:28, 29; 2 Peter 3:13.
Other eyewitnesses to a resurrection included Peter, along with some others of the 12 who accompanied Jesus on his travels. They actually heard the resurrected Jesus speak by the Sea of Galilee. The account tells us: “Jesus said to them: ‘Come, take your breakfast.’ Not one of the disciples had the courage to inquire of him: ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after his being raised up from the dead.” —John 21:12-14.
Therefore, Peter could write with utter conviction: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” —1 Peter 1:3.
The apostle Paul expressed his confident hope when he said: “I believe all the things set forth in the Law and written in the Prophets; and I have hope toward God, which hope these men themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” —Acts 24:14, 15.
Millions therefore can have the solid hope of seeing their loved ones alive again on earth but under very different circumstances. What will those circumstances be? Further details of the Bible-based hope for our lost loved ones will be discussed in the final section of this brochure, entitled “A Sure Hope for the Dead.”
But first let us consider questions you may have if you are grieving over the loss of a loved one: Is it normal to grieve this way? How can I live with my grief? What can others do to help me cope? How can I help others who are grieving? And principally, What does the Bible say about a sure hope for the dead? Will I ever see my loved ones again? And where?
Questions to ponder
- What is a natural reaction to the death of a loved one?
- What did Jesus do for a widow at Nain?
- What promise regarding the dead did Jesus give?
- Why could Peter and Paul be sure that there would be a resurrection?
- What questions deserve an answer?
Read Part 2 in the next article.