A Christian Understanding of Death

As a child, my mother taught me that when someone dies, we should never feel badly for them. The deceased is fine. Rather, we grieve for ourselves and our loss. But never for those who are gone. This is, in fact, a proper understanding of death, loss and grieving for a Christian to have, but one which I fear has been all but lost for many people.

I want to be clear, that this is not the trite “they’re in a better place now” which often rubs people the wrong way. Nor is it an attempt to claim that the death is part of God’s will or in any way a good thing. It may well be that the death was well outside of anything God would will and a terrible tragedy which ought never have occurred. Rather, what my mother taught me was that death is a tragedy for us who are left behind, but is not a tragedy for the loving person who has died.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13

We grieve, yes. As deeply and as long as we need to. But our grief is for our loss – not those who have died. We miss those who go before us in death and that can bring wrenching sorrow. But it is also the sorrow which fades and heals in time. When we grieve and have sorrow over what the dead may be missing – it complicates our grief. But if we know that no matter how untimely or tragic there death was that God himself is providing for their every need, then we are able to grieve and heal for ourselves and not for ourselves and for someone whose problem (having died) cannot be fixed.

This isn’t just some nice idea meant to either comfort or minimize the enormous loss caused by the death of a loved one. This truth is one of the central works of Christ himself: Continue reading “A Christian Understanding of Death”