Comfort in Time of Grief
THE death of a loved one can indeed be the most upsetting experience of a lifetime. A young woman from southern Texas relates: “While I was pregnant with my second child, my husband was killed. This tragic experience led to great depression. Adding to my trauma, my baby was born and died. I lost communication with everyone, including my young son. Also disturbing to me was the fact that, though my son was old enough to talk, he never uttered a word. At the time I was too introverted to realize that, if I never talked to him, he would never learn to express himself.” How desperately this woman needed comfort! Happily, she did receive encouragement when a fellow worker began talking to her about the Holy Scriptures.
Just what hope does the Bible offer to persons who experience the grief that death can bring? The Scriptures make it clear that we have no reason to worry about the dead nor to be overwhelmed by sorrow. This is because, in God’s due time, dead loved ones will be restored to life. “I have hope toward God,” said the Christian apostle Paul, “that there is going to be a resurrection.” (Acts 24:15) Those who are raised to life will have the prospect of never again being subjected to misery, sickness or death. (Rev. 21:3-5) All the sadness experienced by humankind will be so totally offset by the changed conditions that will exist after their resurrection that “the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart.”—Isa. 65:17.
Because first-century Christians believed in the resurrection, the loss of loved ones was much easier for them to bear. They did not give way to the extreme, unrestrained expressions of sorrow characteristic of persons without any hope. (1 Thess. 4:13) But how can one be sure that there will be a resurrection?
It is noteworthy that the apostle Paul’s hope was based on his faith in God. Since the Almighty is the One who created humankind, he must also have the wisdom and the power to raise the dead, to re-create them. In fact, what the Bible tells us about the creation of the first man Adam can aid us to understand the miracle of the resurrection.
Adam was formed from the elements of the ground. Of course, these elements have no personality and are incapable of conscious activity or thought. However, when God organized these elements into a harmonious body and energized that body with a life-force, a distinct personality came into being—a man having the ability to think and to reason as well as to transmit life through procreation.—Gen. 2:7.
Note that what made Adam an individual was not the substance making up his body. Rather, it was what God did to the elements of the ground. Therefore, the resurrection does not depend on the preservation or the reconstruction of the molecules in the individual’s body prior to his death. Even during our lifetime, the molecules making up our bodies constantly undergo change. Thus the molecules making up your body today are completely different from what they were about seven years ago. Nevertheless, you are still the same person. Likewise, whether a person is raised to human or spirit life, his body will carry within it all the God-given characteristics that make him the same individual who died. He will possess the full identity of his former life.—1 Cor. 15:36-49.
Besides setting forth the hope of a resurrection, the Bible provides the basis for this hope. From the Scriptures we learn that restoring the dead to life is not something new, something that has never happened before. To the contrary, the Bible presents specific cases of men, women and children who were resurrected. (1 Ki. 17:21-23; 2 Ki. 4:32-37; Mark 5:41-43; Luke 7:11-15; John 11:38-45; Acts 9:36-42; 20:9-12) The most outstanding resurrection was that of Jesus Christ. Upward of 500 witnesses saw him after his being raised from the dead. (1 Cor. 15:6) This event was so well established that the apostle Paul could say that denial of the resurrection meant rejection of the Christian faith as a whole. We read: “If, indeed, there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised up. But if Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and our faith is in vain. Moreover, we are also found false witnesses of God, because we have borne witness against God that he raised up the Christ, but whom he did not raise up if the dead are really not to be raised up. For if the dead are not to be raised up, neither has Christ been raised up. Further, if Christ has not been raised up, your faith is useless.”—1 Cor. 15:13-17.
For the apostle Paul and millions of others, unshakable faith in the resurrection of the dead was a source of unfailing comfort. It continues to be such even today. True, some persons may scoff at the thought of a resurrection, saying that they never have seen anyone come back from the dead. But does their unbelief put them in a better position to face death? By denying the historical evidence of past resurrections, what comfort can they offer to the bereaved? When they themselves lose dear relatives or friends in death, does their unbelief aid them to be less sorrowful? The facts speak for themselves.
Hence, in times of mourning, continue to draw comfort from God’s sure promise of a resurrection as set forth in the Bible. There is no other hope. Do not let go of it. Also, find satisfaction in bringing genuine comfort to mourning ones by sharing with them the Bible’s message about the resurrection.