Hope Relieves Suffering
The unexpected death of someone we love produces great suffering. Awareness of the end of a present relationship produces feelings of bitter emptiness. The loss of future possibilities in this life leaves a hole in our heart.
Jesus understands these feelings. Jesus wept because He saw the pain of Mary and Martha over the death of their brother Lazarus. His words to Martha bring comfort to those who suffer the pain of death today: John 11:21-27 - “Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." NIV
Linda and I experienced such pain when we received an alarming phone call from Sheriff Smith of Tallapoosa County. Neill’s car was found at the scene of a reported drowning at a graduation party on Lake Martin near Dadeville, where we lived at the time of our first born son’s entry into this life. Sheriff Smith was then a merchant and our landlord. We had bought our first furniture from him, as we sat up our household after my graduation from Auburn in 1962. Twenty-four years later, Neill drowned a few miles from where he was born.
I cannot find the words to express the terrible emptiness that came when my brother Wilson called just as Linda and I were leaving to drive the four hours to Lake Martin. The rescue squad had just found our son’s body, and my brother had identified him.
The next few days are a blur in my memory. I do remember the funeral service conducted by Jack Hackworth, and the comforting words of friends and family who came to visit. But a father and daughter we did not know spoke the most encouraging words. They had traveled from Gadsden to attend the funeral. The daughter had been a student at Auburn while Neill was there. She told us that she had been depressed and suicidal, and that Neill had told her that Jesus loves her. She credited him with saving her life with those kind words.
This confirmation of Neill’s faith in Jesus was like the sun rising in the morning. Hope warms the soul. Paul spoke of how the hope of the resurrection removes the sting of death: 1 Cor 15:50-57- “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’”
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” NIV
The resurrection of Jesus and the promise of our own resurrection to eternal life remove the fear of death for those who trust in Jesus. Comfort each other with this hope. Share this hope with others.