Death is one of those things that we don’t prepare for. Sometimes we have tragic accidents that no one expected and other times we have incidents where someone was sick and they die. In both instances, death is painful. When I heard that one of my cousins was involved in a tragic accident and died, I was hurt by the news. I asked myself: “Why?” To be more specific, I asked God: “Why did this happen?” Mourning is inevitable in the face of death.
Whether rich or poor, male or female, old or young, we will all eventually die.
One thing that we cannot deny, is that death is a part of living. We are all going to die. Whether rich or poor, male or female, old or young, we will all eventually die. But sometimes we think we are going to live forever. So we’re surprised when we hear that someone we knew is dead. It’s shocking. Only it shouldn’t be. That being said, how should we face death? What does God say to those who mourn?
1. Mourn with Hope
We don’t mourn as people without hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ.
When I attended the memorial service of my cousin who passed away, there were mixed feelings as to what should happen. Some insisted: ‘do not cry.’ Others urged tears. I was confused as to what I should do. Some cultures see crying as a sign of weakness. When death comes, they insist, we need to be strong.
Paul is helpful on this, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. As believers, we need to mourn rightly because we know who is in control. We don’t mourn as people without hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ who died and rose again. We can know that when we die, we will live again. This is the Christian hope.
2. Ask Questions
The first thing I asked when I heard that my cousin died was: “why him?” We ask God why he did not do anything to prevent the accident. We want God to answer us because deep down we know that he knows all things. In such situations, we want answers.
Death gives us an opportunity to seek help from God.
As Martha said to Jesus: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). In asking God we demonstrate that we’re needy people. Death reminds us that we are not in control. Death gives us an opportunity to seek help from God. Though we must remember that God won’t necessarily give us the answer we want.
Job experienced great suffering, the kind that left his friends speechless (Job 2:11-13). In Job 3 he repeatedly asks God: “why?” Later he gets an answer, as God started asking Job questions he couldn’t answer (Job 38-41). Job’s distressed cries weren’t wrong. Yet towards the end of the book he acknowledges that God is at the centre, not us (Job 42:1-6).
3. Remember That God Cares for Us
We can mourn knowing that God cares deeply about human life.
If God cares, why did he take away my cousin? If God cares, why did he take away my brother? Thus it’s easy to conclude that he doesn’t. But only because our definition of caring is God stopping the accident from happening, preventing death. We see this in Martha’s statement (John 11:32). But one of the points of that story is to show just how much Jesus cared. He was deeply moved and troubled by the situation.
We must cast our burdens onto God, because he cares (1 Peter 5:7). He invites us to approach him, surrendering to him and sharing our burdens. We can do this knowing that he cares deeply about human life.
4. Trust the God Who’s at Work
The thing is, we think that we aren’t supposed to die. If we consider death we place it far into our futures. But it can come anytime. Thus we’re rarely prepared. One thing that the Lord helped me with was gratitude. Little do we thank God for the memories we’ve created. I have listened to a guy who lost his wife in a tragic accident. No one expected it. Yet he was grateful. He praised God for the opportunities he’d had with his wife, for the memories. He thanked God for their beautiful children. This man knew that his wife was a gift from God, which is true of every life.
This man knew that his wife was a gift from God, which is true of every life.
Paul says that God comforts us, so that we may comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4). Death is an opportunity for us to experience God’s comfort, equipping us to comfort others as they mourn. It is an opportunity to serve others experiencing pain. It is after the burial that all the emotions and the reality of the loss come in. And it is usually after the burial that the ones who have lost their loved ones are alone. Christian, don’t waste these opportunities to comfort others, as God comforts you.
God is Lord of Both Life and Death
Death is painful. It is part of this fallen world. We will all die, eventually. Yet we have hope. We do not mourn without hope. And even though it is hard, the invitation is always open. “Come to me,” Jesus calls. Cast your burdens to him and he will work wonders in your life, even in the face of death.