In responding to a friend who had asked me a question about end times, I found myself re-reading 1st Thessalonians 4. As is often the case, I went to the text to refresh my mind on one topic and came away rejoicing in another. 1st Thessalonians 4:13 says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope.” I laid down my Bible and thanked God for His power over death and for the future resurrection of all the saints, including my dad. My mind turned to those who don’t believe and wondered how they are able to find any satisfaction in a life that brings ultimate and final death; there is no satisfaction for the deceased and there is no comfort for the living. Based on this verse, what I find interesting and near unexplainable is how death can drive so many good people away from God. The argument typically goes something like this: “How can a loving God who has total control and power allow this person (fill in the blank) to die?”
What is thought-provoking about such a reality is that the living who are moved away from God through difficult times have only one person in mind; themselves. That seems counter-intuitive since the reason they have abandoned God is because of the death of their loved one. Yet, who would ever wish upon their loved one that everything be finished? Who would ever wish that God have no say in the matter of bringing the loved one into an eternal, perfect, loving presence with Himself? (granted, I acknowledge that that prospect of things just being “finished” is a better alternative than hell, but that is rarely the reason why the living don’t believe). It is the dissatisfaction and pain from the heart of the living that causes the fleeing from God with little or no regard to what the Bible says about God’s purposes and ways. Of course we will hurt. Of course we will grieve. We will perhaps be angry and confused. We should certainly pay attention to our feelings and take good care of our own health, both physically and emotionally. Nevertheless, when tragedy leads to an absolute blanket denial of God in spite of everything else, that crosses the line and places us in a dark corner of selfishness. The love of God is a difficult doctrine and we turn our minds into an infant’s capacity if we think that sometimes, perhaps even often times, love and hurt are not closely related. Just ask my 1 year old daughter Callie Grace who has 5 bandages from the immunizations her dad watched her painfully take.
No. It’s usually not about a theological struggle with the Bible. It’s usually not about questioning the historicity of Scripture. It’s usually not about the lack of evidence. It’s usually about selfishness. It is no wonder, then, that the Bible speaks so often of denying ourselves and following Christ. Paul goes as far to say in Romans 8 that we are heirs with Christ “provided we suffer with him.”
I can’t wait to see my dad again. There are just tons of stories that I want to laugh with him about all over again. There is not a day goes by that I do not grieve the early passing of my dad. But I don’t grieve as others do. What about you?
NOTE: This article is in no way meant to diminish the hurt and loss of losing a loved one. I write as one with experience of losing one of the people in this world I loved most. This article simply is intended to express my observation that denying God based primarily on the death of a loved one is rooted in selfishness.