We can see them again!
Death And Comfort
Have you lost someone in death? Was it unjust? Was it violent? Did it shake your faith or change your attitude to life? If so, you are in need of genuine comfort, not just sympathetic words. There are many well-meaning comforters in the world and, they may help some people to cope with loss and trauma to a degree but, what is their source of information and, is it true?
Most people would agree that the worst loss anyone can suffer is that of a child. As a Father, I have not personally experienced that horror but my heart aches for those who have. I have heard the words of comfort offered to such sufferers and it seemed to me illogical and unsatisfactory. People who lose their child are often told that it was “God’s will” and that “God took them to be with him in heaven.“ To me, that is offensive. Not only does it portray our creator as a callous, selfish God who inflicts all kinds of horrors on children just so that he can bring them to him, but, it also implies that, in order to see their child again, a person has to die! I find no comfort in those explanations and I often wondered whether they were true or not.
When I was a little boy, I heard about dying. I was curious, fascinated, and I wanted to know more.
My parents explained death to me as tactfully as possible. That night, I pondered it. The word which kept entering my mind was “end.” That was the best way I could view it, as an end, like the end of a good film! I remember laying in my bed that night trying to imagine what death was like. There were no exceptions, no one could opt out. It even included me! Even my short familiar existence would end. Okay, I would have to wait until I was old, like my Nan. That would be thousands of years, I thought, so what do I have to worry about?
But the thought still bothered my mind and once again, I found myself dwelling on death. What was it? Did it hurt? Who decided it had to happen? If it made us so sad, why did we allow it? Why didn’t scientists, or the Prime Minister, or my headmaster, who was really powerful, ban it?
I decided to try my own experiment, there and then. I held my breath. I held it for a very long time. I could feel the pressure rising to my head and my heart pumping faster. “This is a bit uncomfortable” I thought but, I persisted. There came a point where I felt as though I was about to burst like a balloon. I still wanted to carry on the experiment and see what it was like getting near to death but, my body wouldn’t let me. Reluctantly, I took a breath. My conclusion from my scientific experiment? Death must be a grown up lie, like the bogey man, to frighten naughty children, because, it wasn’t possible to stop breathing. Since my youth I had a preoccupation with death. It fascinated me and also scared me.
I lost my dear Father when I was relatively young. He suffered from a lung disease inflicted by a negligent employer who deliberately exposed him to dangerous materials which damage the lungs. He was also a smoker and so played a part in His own destruction. I watched this once proud man suffer for nearly five years, fighting for every breath and tormented by pain. Finally, his body gave out and he died. At that time, I had a vague belief in God but nothing concrete. I did not know why God would allow such suffering and I did not believe that my dad had gone to another place such as heaven. As far as I was concerned, I would never see my Father again. This left me in a deep void of bitterness and confusion. There were times when I considered taking legal action against the organization that had caused his death but, when I stopped to think about it, I realised that, the best that could happen in that situation was that they would possibly be fined and they might have to pay me compensation. Neither of these outcomes were of any comfort to me and they did not take away the intense pain and loss that I was still feeling. To receive comfort and real justice, someone would have to bring my Father back to life, restore his health and wipe the memory of his suffering from his mind. No human being can do those things.
When my dear father died, I was 27. I didn’t believe in heaven or an afterlife so I was convinced that I would never see him again and that made me angry and resentful. I dealt with it by becoming more practical and less involved with other people. I also drank heavily. I became very bitter and cynical. I finally understood the consequences of death. It was no lie, it was real and it really hurt! The irony was that it hurt the living, not the dead.
It was 10 years before I discovered something completely new about death, something that changed my mind completely and freed me from this morbid fixation. In time I was fortunate to meet an individual who introduced me to something completely new and profound. He urged me to consider what the Holy Bible actually says on the matter of suffering and loss. At first I was reluctant because of the explanations given by religious leaders, explanations that, I assumed, came from the Bible itself. Yet, when I looked at what the Bible actually says on these subjects, I was pleasantly surprised.
During a study of the Bible, the subject of death came up and I asked what death was and why it happened. The person studying with me simply showed me the words of Jesus. He said, of Lazarus, who had just died, “He has gone to rest” (sleep). That was it. Lazarus, and all dead people, were in state that resembled a very deep sleep. They were not conscious of anything and they felt no pain or anxiety. During sleep, a person has no concept of passing time. I was then told of an illustration which helped to show this clearly. A man is sitting on a train, on a very long journey. There are others with him, including close friends. The journey takes him through many places and stations, all different. Some places are beautiful and he would like to spend more time there. Others are grim and disturbing and he wants the train to rush past these places. His friend opposite is very tired and can’t stay awake. The man misses the companionship of his friend for the rest of the journey. Finally the train pulls into it’s destination. The man leans over and gently wakes his friend. His friend opens his eyes and is surprised to find that they have reached their destination. They leave the train together.
The journey is life. The destination is the “Real life”, the “Re-creation” promised by Jesus in the Bible;
No one, except those with extreme suffering and no hope of relief, wants their life to end. Our incredible brains could go on taking in information indefinitely, without limit yet, all life is prematurely cut short due to either negligence, accident, disease, violence or, eventually, genetically inherited flaws in our DNA. But there is hope.
For those who have lost their loved ones, be assured that God does not take children to be in Heaven and He certainly does not arrange the deaths of individuals. The Bible realistically states that “Time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all” (Ecclesiastes 9.11). Furthermore, God’s word clearly states that suffering and death were never God’s intention and no-one is being tested for heavenly life. To quote Ezekiel 18.32, it says “I (God) do not take any delight in the death of someone.” This is confirmed in the Gospels where it tells us, regarding a local accident that killed people, “So in reply Jesus said to them “Do you imagine that these Galileans were proved worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered these things? No indeed” (Luke 13.3).
The Bible says “When under trial, let no-one say “I am being tried by God”, For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone” (James 1.13).
If you are mourning, no matter how devastated or lonely you may feel, there is true comfort which is available now and promises an amazing future. The Bible offers something wonderful, in the near future. Jesus taught us to pray “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth” (Matthew 6.10). Notice that God’s will is to be done “on earth.” What is God’s will for those who are suffering?
“God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning, nor pain be anymore” (Revelation 21.4).
And of those who have already suffered and died?;
“All those in the memorial tombs will come out” (John 5.28).
“Your dead ones will rise“ (Isaiah 26.19).
I have learned to trust these promises from God and his son. One day, soon, my dad will live again, on a cleansed earth, in perfect health. He will not remember the suffering of the past. That is real comfort and real justice!
For all those who mourn, rest assured that your tears and your prayers are not in vain. Your loved one is coming back for, as the Bible says, “With God, all things are possible.”
So this is the promise to sustain us, the beautiful promise of Jesus Christ, saying “Blessed are those that mourn, since they will be comforted” (Matthew 5.4).