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Sometimes we aren’t in a setting to lament together through Scripture, but we can apply those principles to everyday conversation. We can invite our friends to talk about their feelings without judgment, beginning the conversation by saying, “This must be so hard. It would have opened a whole host of struggles for me. How are you feeling?” Sharing our own battles and temptations invites others to speak, knowing they won’t be judged.
This can bring us great comfort, knowing that hope is not lost, that our hope is in Christ alone. We will continue to struggle with the restrictions, but placing our faith in God means we know His promises still stand, that He is sovereign over the world, and that our lives are lived unto Him, every day.
Should We Expect Our Jobs to Make Us Happy?
We’re all prone to find our identity and happiness in unfit places. Barnabas Piper writes about why our work can’t bear the weight we often want it to.
Work— like many other things in life- is a means of finding happiness. It’s designed by God and is a good thing. It’s a good hook for the right things, but too weak to hold our hopes for total happiness.
When a loved one dies, we feel more than just sadness. We know pain and despair and heartache in the center of our souls. Because we hurt, we can feel disoriented, asking the deepest questions of our lives.
We can understand, therefore, why Paul needed to write part of his first letter to the Thessalonians. These Christians were grieving and confused, wondering what had become of their friends and family members who had died.
In 1 Thess 4:13–18, Paul answered their questions and addressed their fears. In doing so, he has shown us just how much comfort comes from thinking rightly about the future.
Grief is Good
When Paul addressed his brothers in 1 Thess 4:13, he spoke about their grief.
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. (1 Thess 4:13)
Those outside of the church grieve, but they have no hope anchoring their grief. Paul wanted his friends to grieve with hope, and he gave specific grounds for that hope in the following verses.
Paul was no Stoic; he did not prohibit mourning. But our mourning should be done—like everything else in our lives—as Christians. We should not deny the natural emotion of grief, but our grief should be informed by the truth of God’s word.
Those Who Have Died Have Not Missed Out
From what Paul wrote in 1 Thess 4:15–17, it seems the Thessalonians were concerned that their loved ones might not experience the full joy of the coming of the Lord. Paul reassured them.
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. (1 Thess 4:15–17)
The dead in Christ will rise first. Then there will be a joyous reunion with loved ones (“caught up together,” verse 17) and with the Lord. Though we do not know the time nor all the specifics, there is great comfort in knowing what is to come.
For Those Who Believe in Jesus
It’s important to state this unpopular truth: Comfort in the coming of the Lord is reserved for those who believe in Jesus.
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess 4:14)
Though Paul did not write the entire Christian gospel here, he stated its central truth (“Jesus died and rose again”). In the first century, Christians were chiefly set apart by this belief in the work of Jesus. Paul wanted these believers to know that God’s work for their loved ones was not over. He will bring them with him when he comes.
We’ve all heard hollow words of hope and empty promises of comfort surrounding death. At least he’s in a better place. You’ll feel better, just give it time.
Paul had no time for faint hope. He pointed to the best, most lasting comfort there is—the eternal presence of God. How sweet to know that “we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17).
Without interruption or distraction, we will be with our loving, faithful, glorious Lord. Our sin made us unworthy of being near him, but Jesus has brought us close and will, on the last day, take us closer still.
Encourage One Another
Paul ended this short portion of his letter with a command. “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess 4:18).
Far too often the coming of the Lord has been a source of controversy, division, and apprehension among Christians. Yet Paul sees this coming as a source of courage for the grieving.
We are often called as a church to love and comfort those who are mourning. And this passage tells us how we can pray for and speak to our grieving friends. We remind them of the gospel, we point to the future, and together we cling to the sure hope of eternal fellowship with the Lord.
Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.
Come, Desire of Nations, Come: An Advent Reflection
Here is a wonderful extended meditation on Haggai 2:7, one of the lesser-used prophecies about the Messiah. Matthew Arbo notes the reference to this verse in the hymn Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and writes about the need for God to shake the nations before the desire of all nations will come.
He is the desire of all nations whether the nations know him or not. He isn’t the desire of just some nations. He is the desire of all nations. The nations desire him irrespective of whether they acknowledge him or not. He is the object of their deepest and highest longing, for the kingdom is the Lord’s, and he rules over the nations (Ps. 22:28).
Three Things to Remember When Giving Comfort to Grieving People
If we don’t know what to say to a friend in crisis, remember that so long as Job’s friends remained quiet, they helped him bear his grief. Later, when they began giving unsolicited advice and rebuke, Job not only had to deal with his suffering, but with his friends’ smug responses, which added to his suffering.
Dickens’ classic shoots down the idea—prevalent in some Christian circles—that reading novels is a waste of time. They seem to forget that Jesus Himself was a master storyteller. For instance, He didn’t just say, “Come to the aid of those who need help.” Instead, He told a vivid story about a Samaritan who rescues a wounded man.
On the WPCA Blog This Week
This week on the blog we published an article written by Sarah Wisniewski called Consider the Sycamore. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!
Thanks to Cliff L for his help in rounding up links this week.
Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here.
Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.
When Your Arms Are Emptier Than You Expected
Don’t let the title of this article fool you—it’s not just for those experiencing the loss of a child. Brittany Allen looks to the Bible to learn how grief and joy can coexist.
The world says you can only thrive in a season of visible gain and abundance. Furthermore, they might grant us the right to curse God like Job’s wife when trials come our way. But God’s word gives us a different picture of gain and abundant life, and often, it includes grief and trials. In the Bible, thriving often looks a lot like growing. Just as those growing pains caused my legs to ache as a preteen, it’s often painful to feel the changes and stretches within my heart as God sanctifies me through trials.
4 Ways Martin Luther Encourages Pastors to Pray
At 9 Marks, Mark Rogers shares some of what he has learned about prayer from Martin Luther. (This is definitely not just for pastors!)
And yet, though I’ve learned that prayer is a non-negotiable, I’ve also learned that I must fight to stay faithful in prayer. After all, others won’t know if I’m not praying. Nobody will complain if I give up secret prayer every day. Therefore, I need regular encouragement, instruction, and inspiration to keep from sliding into prayerlessness.
Biblical Principles for Ethnic Harmony
I love this post from H.B. Charles. He gives us seven principles from the Bible for ethnic harmony, and he takes us from creation all the way to heaven. Along the way he helps us understand the sin of racism and see the hope that Jesus brings.
Racism is a spiritual battle that can be overcome. But you cannot win spiritual battles with worldly weapons. This is why the hope of overcoming racism cannot truly be found in human effort, worldly philosophies, or even civil rights. The gospel, which reconciles God to sinners, must also reconcile sinners to one another. As a result, the church is the hope of the world.