When You Lose Someone You Love
Biblical answers for the bereaved.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
On Sunday we held a memorial service for Emily, a precious child who stepped into her eternal home after five weeks of earthly life. On Wednesday our church celebrated the life of Dr. George, a longtime church member, Sunday school teacher, and remarkable friend. From five weeks to 84 years of age—two ends of the same spectrum.
As I walked with their families through their loss and grief, I realized that we all need to know what to do and what to believe when we lose someone we love. Let’s ask God together.
Where are they now?
Our text begins with a secret only Christians can share: “Listen,” Paul says. (1 Corinthians 15:51) Why listen? Because “I tell you a mystery.” “Mystery” means something no human can know except by direct revelation from God. Paul says, “I’m about to tell you one of God’s secrets.”
Here it is: “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” “We” shows that this mystery, this promise, is for believers, and only for believers. We will not all “sleep,” Paul’s common word for Christian death. But we will all be “changed.”
How long does it take? “In a flash”—there is no reincarnation, or purgatory here—instantly, (1 Corinthians 15:52), in the quickest possible moment of time. We are “raised imperishable,” he promises. (1 Corinthians 15:53) From death to life, from grief to glory, from earth to heaven, from grave to God.
So know that the one you love is loved by God, this very moment. Imagine what it must be like for them, dwelling eternally in the glories of God’s perfect heaven.
Why did this happen?
We rejoice in the good news that the one we loved who died in faith is with God. But now we suffer together with the hard news that they died at all. And if we are honest we must ask the hard questions: why did this happen? Does God not care? Is He not powerful? Why does He permit such tragedy as this?
We know that this world is fallen from God’s perfect plan for it. There was no death or grief in Eden. But when sin entered the world, creation “fell” (Romans 8:19-22). In this fallen world, hurricanes and tornadoes and cancer and disease and accidents occur. God does not “do” them—they are the inevitable result of natural laws in this fallen order.
But God uses such death and pain: “The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Not one of us would wish to go through eternity in these diseased bodies of decay and suffering. We don’t have to. God uses the death which entered humanity from sin, to bring us to eternal glory with perfect bodies and lives.
We do not know why God permits such suffering and death now. This is because we cannot understand His ways or His eternal plans. But, one day we will.
What do we do next?
In the meantime, what do we do next? Our text gives the answer: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
In light of these facts, let nothing shake your faith in God and your confidence in His word. Give yourselves “fully,” “abundantly” to God’s work—serving others is one of God’s great antidotes to our pain.
So, we do what the one we loved is doing right now. We live in this moment, just as they are in the eternal now that is heaven. We walk with God, just as they do. We continue to read His word, believe His promises, speak to Him in prayer, trust Him by faith. As they worship God, so do we.
They serve God and His saints now — so do we. We find ways to help hurting people, as others have helped us.
And we prepare to be together. For the one you love, it will be only a moment; for us it may be today, or many years from today. We make sure we are ready to meet God and that person we love, as if it were this day. Because one day, it will be.
If this were your day to stand before God, would you be ready? The 23rd Psalm contains a comforting promise: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4) This is the promise of God. Is it one you are able to claim?
Pray this week:
Good Shepherd, thank you for giving your life for me, your sheep. Thank you for your promise to be with me always.
Are you ready for this moment? If you stood before God today, why should He allow you to remain in His presence?