I-ll See You in Heaven
April 20 2010 by D.E. Parkerson

Grief is one of the most perplexing and painful problems humans have to face. When a devastating loss occurs, such as the sudden death of a family member or close personal friend, it is easy for us to become overwhelmed by grief.

This happened in our church on Wednesday night before Easter. A deacon who was a close friend had a heart attack and died in less than two minutes in the presence of all who were present. No one knows when this kind of thing is going to happen.

Grief is not just sorrow — it is sorrow that is multiplied. It can be caused by a significant loss of any kind — a divorce, a major health problem, the loss of a job, when your home is destroyed by fire or by a storm, and by many other circumstances.

Though grief has the power to do great damage in our lives, it can also become the source of great strength. It is healthy to express sorrow after a great loss. God created us with emotions, and with a capacity to love one another. After all, Jesus wept as He stood by the grave of his friend, Lazarus (Jn. 11:36).

Weeping is an honest expression of a normal and healthy human emotion. It becomes a problem when we allow it to push us into despair. It is when we allow loss to conquer us that we find it easy to throw up our hands.

The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “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.” He is not saying we should not grieve when a family member or friend dies. He is saying that we do not grieve as those “who have no hope.” 

The word “hope” contains only four letters, but it is the anchor that keeps a believer in Christ from drifting into despair. No Christian has reason to despair — to give up, to act as though there is no hope. Non-Christians have a valid reason to despair, for they are not assured of having eternal life. They do not know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom. 8:28).

Paul is not saying that everything that happens is good. Rather, he is saying, “In all things (even difficult things) God has the ability to cause good to result.” Even though we may not understand why certain things happen, we can rest assured that God loves us and is working out everything for our good. Without this hope — without this faith in the all-governing hand of God, all our sorrows could turn into despair.

The loss of a loved one in death is a tremendous loss indeed. Though we grieve when this happens, we know that the loss is only temporary. Jesus has promised eternal life to everyone who has accepted Him as Savior and Lord (Jn. 14:1-6).

Though grief is normal when a loved one dies, remember this: Christians never say goodbye for the last time! Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in The Golden Legend, explains in these words why this is true:

“When Christ ascended
Triumphantly, from star to star,
He left the gates of heaven ajar.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Parkerson is a native of Georgia, a graduate of Mercer University [B.A.], Southeastern Seminary [M. Div. and Th.M.], and Campbell University [D.D.]. He has served as pastor of one church in Georgia and five churches in North Carolina. Following retirement as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Sanford on Sept. 30, 1996, he has served nine North Carolina churches as interim pastor. His column, The Paper Pulpit, has appeared weekly in a few newspapers and other publications since 1958. He and his wife, Jessie, live in Wilmington near their daughter and family.)
4/20/2010 8:34:00 AM by D.E. Parkerson | with 1 comments

Dr. James Willingham
Grief and sorrow have been major and crucial factors in my life. As a child of age 3 I experienced the trauma of a broken home, being raised by my maternal grandparents. Then there was the grief of family conflicts followed by the dislocation from the farm to the big city as a teenager. Conversion and the call to the ministry were followed by the shock of pastoring a church that had fired the previous pastor and, thus, being divided by the firing they took their anger out on the successor (me). Later would come the suffering of another broken home. Then in a 9 month period in '72 came the deaths of 6 members of my family, four by murder-suicide. During the funeral for the four I read a statement in which I quoted Dr. Samuel Miller of Harvard Universiy who stated: "We need a reconciling image large enough to hold all things. Passionate enough to burn through all contradictions to an underlying peace....Compassionate enough to leave nothing in man outside its mercy or insight. It must be holy enough to bring God's blessing. Hopeful enough to revive man's trust in life and humble enough to force him to kneel. It must be rich enough in joy to celebrate in praise. Honest enough to reach the lowest level of earth and sublime enough to climb toward the light that rests on the highest summits." I went on to say that we have that reconciling image, and it is not just an image. I was referring to the reconciling reality in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This was the hope and faith of me and my sister and our families in the loss of our mother, two-half sisters, and step-father in a triple murder and suicide. We believed while God did not cause any one to sin, He was in control of it, what Arthur W. Pink called the Sovereignty of God in all things. Some students in one of my classes at SEBTS were very upset over the idea that God had anything todo with the situation, But, interestingly enough, Dr. Ed. Pruden, who had been President Truman's pastor, stated that he had lost a son to accidental death due to a leaking space heater in off-campus housing, and that if he did not believe God was in control to make things turn out for good, he would have no hope. He said, "I agree with Mr. Willingham." His experience was an eloquent testimony to our need for faith in the reality of God's power to bring good out of evil which the cross and the resurrection clearly imply beyond a shadow of doubt.Perhaps it might be said with Dr. Parkerson and Longfellow that it was in the cross and resurrection that He left the gates of Heaven ajar, fot surely in that the worst of all evils there is displayed hope. It follows that my family and I could have hope as did Dr. Pruden in our own terrible experiences of loss. You said it well, Del. You said it well.
4/21/2010 11:22:04 PM