March and April were difficult months at the Becker house. On March 26, my father, Steven Clifford Becker, Sr. passed away. 34 days later, on April 28, Donna’s father, Burl Franklin Lyons also went home to heaven. The two men my family counted on as our indicators of Christian manhood were gone, where we could not see them or talk to them anymore. I’m still brought to tears if I sit and contemplate these losses for too long.
I’ve had time to think about the things I’ve learned during this time, things I’ve learned about Christian grieving. I think the things I’ve learned are important, and I thought maybe they would be helpful to those who read our Elder Blog.
- It is okay for a Christian to grieve. Just as we mourn or long for the Biblical Bridegroom, we can also long for reunion with those who are in their heavenly rest. Paul says, “13 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. 14 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 Thessalonians 4:13-14]. While we are not to grieve as if we have no hope – it does not say we cannot grieve. We may cry, and ask for hugs, but our focus should always turn on the return of Christ. I think this makes the longing for our loved ones bearable, that we are also longing for that heavenly land under that heavenly ruler, our God and savior Jesus Christ, because we know when He returns, He will claim his bride, the church, and all the saints will be resurrected for the wedding feast above. We grieve, we long for that as Christians, because we know what a celebration that will be, and we grieve because we grow weary in waiting.
- There is comfort in mourning with family, with our Christian brothers and sisters. A time of grief is also an opportunity for your faith family to serve you – do not steal this opportunity from them! As Americans, we for some reason believe we have to be strong, and as adults, we believe we always have to be the ones serving. But God is made preeminent in our weakness, and the gospel can be made louder in our season of grief. When we allow our brothers and sisters in Christ to serve us, we are allowing the unity of faith and the love in Christ to be seen by others, preaching a sermon that would otherwise not be heard or seen. Funerals or hospitals are often an environment where we are on display as a church. Paul recognized the caring spirit of others in Galatians, noting that his chance to preach to them came from his own physical ailments, and he noted that they would have given their own eyes if that would heal Paul. Just so when we grieve, our family of believers want to treat their beloved members well during a difficult season. Let them, that the world may know our love, one for another.
- “The pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.” This is a quote from the movie “Shadowlands” starring Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis and Debra Winger as Joy Gresham. Lewis re-visited the loss of his wife Joy in the book “A Grief Observed”. I like the quote above because it reminds us, that if we grieve deeply at the loss of a loved one to heaven, it probably indicates there was much happiness in the relationship while living. We cry loudly because we miss the joy our loved one brought us. We laugh loudly because of the joy we know our loved one has in the presence of Christ.
- Our grief reflects our hope. We hurt because of the fulfillment, the return that has not yet come. Our hurt reminds us that we should long for His return, and for the celebratory gathering of all the saints. When someone dies, it reminds us once again of the curse of the fallen, and it reminds us once again of the price that was paid to keep us out of Hell. Jesus Christ willingly went to the Roman cross, was pierced, and buried. Three days later He rose from the dead, defeating death in the process. “26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” [Galatians 3:26-29]. We cry because we long for this: “16 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. 17 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 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
Grieving is a normal part of change, especially the change from Earth to Heaven for a loved one. But we have hope in the resurrection when Christ returns, we have joy in the love shown us by our brothers and sisters, and we realize we feel pain because we have already felt great joy. While none of us would wish grief on another person, we should not try to hide our Christian grief, but hope it will be another opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.