Loss of someone we love is never easy, regardless of their age. Their absence in our lives breaks our hearts and steals our joy.
Always allow time for grieving, understanding that we were created by God to feel emotions and that grieving is a natural process of coping with loss. God gave us the ability to love, and He has given us the ability to grieve. Remember also, we know and can trust that He is with us in our grief.
Yes, we grieve at the death of friends and family of all ages. We even grieve when we hear of the death of people we don’t know, perhaps public figures we admire, or deaths from violence or catastrophe. But let’s consider the very specific loss of someone young—perhaps a child or a young adult.
As with all death, we should remember that God did not create us to suffer and die. He created Adam and Eve perfect, and it was only because of their disobedience that sin entered the world and the physical body became subject to death. They were banished from the Garden of Eden where they had been given the Tree of Life. No longer would their bodies be eternal. Of course, we also know that along with the beginning of the process of a physical death came a spiritual death. But God in His mercy provided a way for man to be restored both spiritually and physically.
So as Christians, we have great comfort when a loved one who belongs to the Lord dies. Because they had been spiritually reborn and were given eternal life with Christ, we know they are now with Jesus.
If we have lost someone whom we believe was not saved, we can still have hope that before they took their last breath they trusted in Christ. Remember it is Christ who saves. Even if we did not hear a public profession of faith, there is always hope that the person might have called out to Christ before taking their final breath. That may not give us the comfort we desire, but it does give us hope—a hope in Christ’s mercy and grace.
Gone Too Soon
Back to the question of dealing with the loss of a young person. It might be easier to accept the loss of the elderly because in our understanding they have lived a more complete and full life. We fully acknowledge that losing someone at a young age is often more difficult. But coping with the death of anyone we love, under any circumstances, should always be the same for Christians.
We must remember to do exactly what God commands—trust in Christ. He commands this because He loves us. We are to trust that He is the Sovereign God over everything, and in His purpose and plan He is working all things out for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Believe that even in our greatest losses are His blessings and His will for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Remember and believe that one day we will understand.
Allow yourself time to grieve. Let the heartbreak and the tears flow, but in doing so seek the Lord and He will give you His peace (John 14:27) and comfort (John 14:16-18). It might not seem to be enough at first, but trust in Christ’s promises. And as you move forward you will feel His presence more and feel the pain of loss less.
I have personally experienced the loss of loved ones who were very young—two nephews at ages eight and nine, a best friend at age 16, and a daughter at age 29. (Although that was a prodigal loss, not death, it’s still a similar experience of loss and pain.) What comforted me most in each loss was very different, yet very much the same.
I was a child myself when my nephews drowned and it was my parents who explained that they were in Heaven and now living with Jesus. It was a very simple assurance of hope in God’s promises for His people.
When my best friend died at 16, all of us (her girlfriends) were inconsolable at her funeral. It was her mother who came to us and comforted us with the words, “don’t cry for Jill. She’s with her Lord and Saviour in Heaven.” Those are words I’ve never forgotten. Her mother’s words were a powerful testimony to a group of teenage girls. What honor and glory she brought to the Lord with her faith that enabled her to comfort us.
Both of these examples provided an eternal perspective and gave comfort from the promises of Jesus.
There were many other losses of gone-too-soon friends and family—a childhood playmate from illness, a long-time friend who drowned in college, a nephew by suicide, a great-nephew killed in a car accident, a friend from high school killed in a robbery, a best friend from college who lost his battle to cancer, a cousin who was murdered… and far too many others. In any loss, we must remember what we know to be true: Jesus has prepared a place for those who are His. Let that be an encouragement to share His love and saving grace with all people.
In the most painful loss I have ever experienced (a relational loss), I came to understand how important the mind is in the grieving process. By continually remembering who God is, what He has done for me, and who I am in Christ, I found the strength, comfort, and rest that I needed. Although it may be different than a loss by death, a loss of relationship brings similar pain and suffering. When someone we love dearly is no longer in our lives, it leaves a void. Of course, we know that God can restore relationships, but sometimes He chooses not to do so. We might not understand when we are hurting, but in our suffering, God never tells us to “just get over it.” Rather, He promises to be with us and to bring us through the pain.
Whether God takes someone out of our lives by His providential or His permissive will, whether it’s by death or by separation, we can rest in Christ’s faithfulness and trust that He will fill the void with more of Himself. While we still might feel the loss deeply, when we find our comfort and rest in Christ we no longer feel it so desperately.
I wrote about this in my book Why the Butterfly? Rightly Remembering Jesus. I defined rightly remembering as remembering three things: who God is, what He has done for us, and who we are in Christ. That will focus our minds and hearts on Jesus. Rightly remembering will help us to have an eternal perspective. It will transform our minds, anchor our souls, and warm our hearts to better cope with grief.
So again, it is important to allow yourself time to grieve and it is important to direct your mind, your will, and your emotions during the grieving process.
A Biblical Process to Heal the Heart and Refresh the Soul
1) Seek the Lord first.
Pour out your heart to the Lord in prayer and hear Him speak to you through His Word. Read the Bible focusing on His provision of comfort and peace in your suffering. Remember that Jesus wept when His friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). Shed your tears and experience the pain, but in your grief look for the Lord’s blessings.
Laura Story puts it well in the refrain from her song, Blessings, when she asks, “What if your blessings come through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?” Anyone who has experienced loss can relate to the emotions of tears and sleepless nights during the grieving process. But “what it?” What if, in the raindrops there are blessings? In the tears there is healing? And in the sleepless nights, Jesus is near? She answers in her song with another thought-provoking question: What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise? Look for God’s mercies in every trial.
2) Allow your Christian friends to comfort you.
When the grief is so great you can’t see the Light through the tears and you can’t find His joy in your pain, let God work through His children. God will use your brothers and sisters in Christ to minister to you, and to share His love and His promises with you.
3) Have an eternal perspective.
Life in a fallen world was not what God intended for us. With all its pain and suffering, this earth is not our home. There is a home of total peace and comfort promised to us by Jesus (John 14). The song, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (Helen H. Lemmel, 1922), reminds us of this hope:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full, in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace
Remember, one day God will wipe away every tear. God will make all things new.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
But until that day…
May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Understanding the eternal destiny of babies and young children might also provide comfort. Read Do babies go to Heaven if they die? The mentally impaired, young children, the unborn?
Read this encouraging poem about dealing with pain and sorrow: I Have Been Through the Valley of Weeping, by L.B. Cowman (1860-1970)
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