Thursday, September 11, 2008

Left Behind

St. Paul had this to say to the bereaved: "we do not want you... to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope" (1 Thess. 4:13, NIV). Yet the Bible does not, as some seem to believe, say that "Good Christians don't cry" at all. Even "Jesus wept" (John 11:35) at Lazarus's grave--despite knowing that He and Lazarus would meet again, not in Heaven years later, but on Earth in a few minutes.

Probably what brought tears to Jesus's eyes was not so much the brief separation from His friend as the pain of being in a world where death had to exist at all. Those who insist that weeping over a death indicates lack of faith in God's eternal provision, should consider that death is as contrary to God's plan for this world as is evil. And no one would claim that to get angry at evil indicates lack of faith in God's ultimate justice.

It is true that, as one proverb states, true Christians "never see each other for the last time"--hence we have the joy of hope to temper our grief and to protect us from sliding into despair. But the God Whose Scriptures urge us to long for Christ's ultimate coming, understands our tears when we are confronted with reminders that, in the meantime, the pains of this world often prevail.

He even weeps with us.

Where you've gone we cannot follow
Till the Father calls us, too;
While your troubles now are over--
There is no more pain for you--
For your loved ones here remaining
In this world where pains endure,
There's an ache of separation
Time can never wholly cure.
Though a wound itself be mended,
Yet the scar will still remain;
Though reunion's hope is certain,
There is still an aching pain.

God calls each who walk Earth's pathway
There to travel side by side;
Yet we cannot leave together;
It is only for our Guide
To lead each who take death's passage
All the way they go across,
And to hold the ones remaining
As we bear the pain of loss.
But we know the time is coming
When we too will cross death's sea
To the land where you are waiting,
Parted nevermore to be!

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