This weekend, the mystery of death has been on my mind for a number of reasons. Grieving the loss of a loved one is something that nearly everyone can remember. Chances are, if you aren’t grieving over someone right now, someone you know is grieving over one of their loved ones. Death is never far from us, in one way or another. And it often leaves us asking the ultimate question: “Why?”
In my work as a hospital chaplain intern, I saw many people react to death in very different ways. Some were shocked, some were prepared. Some were angry, some were relieved. Some were tearful, others were stoic. Yet they all shared something in common: they each tried to find some meaning in their experiences.
Personally, I try to find meaning in all difficult experiences by looking to Jesus Christ and his example. If we are to be his disciples, if we are to follow him, then we should look to him first for instruction, encouragement, and advice when we struggle with something.
I begin to find meaning in death by remembering that Jesus Christ created life in the first place. He was present and active as the second person of the Trinity at the moment of creation. He gave life to the first people ever created; life out of nothingness, a true miracle. As the creator of life itself, Christ is Lord of life – and therefore living has meaning in him.
Then I remember that Jesus has experience with death, too. He grieved the loss of loved ones like Lazarus and John the Baptist. And he tasted death first-hand through the cruel form of public execution on a cross. If nothing else, Jesus knows what death is like. That idea alone can provide comfort to those who are in pain.
But the story doesn’t end there. We believe that Jesus rose in triumph over death by coming back from the dead in bodily form. His resurrection marked a turning point in history: from now on, death is no longer the last word. Our Lord Jesus, the creator of life, the one who lived among us, has conquered death itself!
For those of us who believe in him, we can take comfort in knowing that death will not be the end of the story for us, either. Scripture teaches us that when the Lord returns at the end of the age, the dead in Christ will rise – and we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). What a promise! What hope!
Be encouraged, followers of Christ. While death is a terrible and emotionally draining experience, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. The Lord will sustain us – and those whom we love – through this life and into the next.