The Cure for a Grieving Soul
Dr. Jim Denison
Men’s Bible Study begins this Thursday morning, as we consider this semester “Lessons learned the hard way: the life and legacy of Moses.” Dr. Ron Scates, senior minister of Highland Park Presbyterian Church and my very dear friend, will be the speaker as we begin. Then I’ll teach the rest of the semester.
But I often say that the real reason I teach Men’s Bible Study is to tell stories I can’t tell on Sunday. Here’s an example of one which is just on the edge.
“A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. Suddenly the man realized that the next day he would need his wife to wake him at 5 a.m. for an early morning business flight. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and lose!), he wrote on a piece of paper, ‘Please wake me at 5 a.m..’ He left it where he knew she would find it.
“The next morning the man woke up, only to discover it was 9 a.m. and he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn’t awakened him when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed. The paper said, ‘It is 5 a.m.. Wake up.’
“Men are not equipped for these kinds of contests.
These days, we’re dealing with life’s hardest questions, issues with which we are not equipped without God’s help. We’ve sought the cure for a lonely soul, a hungry soul, an injured soul, a joyless soul. Today we’ll seek the cure for a grieving soul.
When Mark Twain buried his beloved daughter Olivia’s body he placed over her grave this epitaph: “Warm summer sun, shine kindly here; Warm southern wind, blow softly here; Green sod, lie light, good night, dear heart.” He was sure that she was in the grave, that death is all there is. Was he right?
What happens when we die? When death comes to someone we care about? And, what happens to children when they die? We can consider no more relevant or emotional questions than these.
Why do we die?
W.C. Fields on his deathbed was seen thumbing through a Bible. Someone asked why. His answer: “Looking for loopholes.” But he didn’t find any. The death rate is still 100%. If Lazarus, Jesus’ best friend, was not kept from dying, neither will we.
In fact, you and I are one day closer to death and eternity than we have ever been before.
God’s word warns us: “It is appointed unto all men once to die, and then the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Death comes for us all.
Neither wisdom nor wealth can prevent it: “All can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others” (Psalm 49:10).
We all face the same end, unless Jesus returns first: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
On a tombstone in Sevenoaks, Kent, England is found these words:
“Grim death took me without any warning
I was well at night, and dead in the morning.”
It can happen that way for any of us.
But why? Why does death exist? If God were all-loving, he’d want to destroy death, we assume. If he were all powerful, he could. But he doesn’t. Why did he allow the tragic deaths of 9-11, an anniversary just one week away? Why did he allow the deaths in the recent Russian school siege? Why did he allow the one you love to die? Why? Here’s the simple answer: because of sin.
The Bible teaches, “Sin entered the world through man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
The thief on the cross said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:41).
This wasn’t God’s intention. He created a perfect world for his children. But when sin entered, death stayed. Death exists, not because God doesn’t love us or isn’t powerful, but because of sin.
Sometimes we die because of our own sin, as did the thief at Jesus’ side. Sometimes we die because of the sins of others, as when a drunk driver kills a child, or a terrorist flies an airplane into a skyscraper, or terrorists take over a school. Sometimes we die because of the sin of humanity, as a result of the diseases and disasters which plague this fallen planet. But we all die, because of the existence of sin.
But Jesus died so our sins could be forgiven. Why, then, do we still die?
God’s word is clear: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians. 15:50). Physical death frees us to live forever in glorified bodies with God in his heaven.
Then one day, death will be destroyed forever: “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of five” (Revelation 20:14). His word promises: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
What happens when we die?
So, what happens in the moment when you die? First, you are with Christ, if Jesus is your Lord. Jesus told the thief at his side, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus taught us that the moment we die, the angels carry us to God’s side (Luke 16:22). When you close our eyes here you open them there. You will never die (John 11:26; Philippians 1:23). You are forever and always with Jesus.
Second, you’re home. Paul said, “We would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Most of us have had surgery of some kind. You are in one room, then you fall asleep; when you awake, you’re done. It’s that way for us all.