«But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope»
(1 Thessalonians 4:13).
AS I WAS WRITING THESE LINES, I still felt the pain caused by the loss of two good friends. One of them from a stroke; the other from cancer.
Where have I found the comfort that is so difficult to find in these cases? In the only place where it is possible to find it: the Word of God. In its pages, we are encouraged not to be sad like those «who have no hope»; that is, like those who, when they say goodbye to a loved one, know that they will never see him or her again. That is not our case. And it is because, «if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus» (l Thessalonians 4:14). Praise be to God! The same power that raised Christ from the grave will also raise «those who sleep in Jesus.»
Not long ago, I stumbled upon an article that reminded me of this precious promise. There, Celeste Perrino Walker recounted the experience she had lived when she was invited as the main speaker at an alumni reunion. If you have ever been to one of these meetings, you will know that it is a joyous celebration of «the good old days.» However, there was no joy at that meeting. The reason was that a short time before, one of the alumni members had learned that she had very advanced colon cancer and had to be operated on, in just a few days.
In such circumstances, what might Celeste have been able to say to them in her speech? What could she have said to inspire hope in them? She told them about a family tradition that a friend of hers, named LeAnne, had shared with her some time before. The tradition consisted in pointing her index finger toward the sky every time a relative who had been visiting her home said goodbye. As that person walked out the door, all the family members pointed to heaven. That was one way to say, «May God be with you. If we do not see each other again in this world, we will see each other when Christ returns.»
Celeste said that when her friend LeAnne’s mother-in-law died, that was exactly what happened. That day, as the funeral procession was heading toward the cemetery, all the relatives stood pointing to the sky with this gesture, they were saying goodbye to their loved one with that powerful message of hope: «The next time we see you, it will be in heaven together with the redeemed.» Right now, I am pointing up to heaven.
I praise You, Father, because one glorious day, Christ will raise those who sleep in Him from the grave. I can hardly wait for that great reunion!