What you are about to read was first written in 2006 when my sweet Grandma (Lilly Emily Edwards, 1915-2006) passed away at the age of 91. Because of the many comments I received of how much this helped others cope with the loss of their loved ones, I shared it again five years later after my precious Grandmother (Nina Rose Walker, 1920-2011) passed, also age 91. And today, it seems appropriate once again to share this post in loving memory of a “grandmother-in-the-faith,” Mrs. Ruth Davis (1920-2015, age 95).
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
Paul said he didn’t want us to be ignorant (having a lack of knowledge) about these things. When the Bible speaks of someone who has “fallen asleep” it is referring to someone who has physically died. On the other hand, if the Bible uses the word “dead” or “death,” it is typically referring to spiritual death, or a state of being separated from God. And in this sense, a person could be physically alive and quite healthy, but dead–meaning they are separated from God. In other words, Paul was saying he didn’t want us to have a lack of knowledge (or understanding) concerning those who have fallen asleep, or passed on from this life, like those who have no hope.
My 94-year-old grandmother-in-the-faith passed away this week (just two days short of her 95th birthday), so I’ve been reminded of this passage of scripture. She was a strong believer and never quiet about her faith. She encouraged me greatly and we will miss her.
But as Paul wrote, we don’t have to “sorrow as others who have no hope.” As Christians, WE HAVE HOPE! Yes, the pain of separating on this earth from someone we love is very hard, but I honestly can’t imagine the pain of separation if I didn’t have the Spirit of the Living God abiding on the inside of me as a believer.
“[So] we give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you… because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Colossians 1:3,5).
There is a difference between natural hope and spiritual hope. With natural hope, we can be disappointed. But in spiritual hope, we can have confidence. And that’s actually what the word hope means; it is a confident expectation of things to come. This is why the scripture says, “Now faith is the substance of things HOPED for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Therefore, following the example of Abraham, the father of our faith, we must: “…contrary to (natural) hope, in (spiritual) hope believe…” (Romans 4:18).
But remember, embracing spiritual hope doesn’t stop our tears or the pain of loss. We are simply comforted with the thought that our believing loved ones who have “fallen asleep” are with the Lord Jesus and that we too shall join them someday. In fact, Paul continued in Thessalonians with this reminder: “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (5:9-11). So we don’t have to wonder where our believing loved ones are–awake or asleep, they are with Jesus.
But the best news of all may be that they are only a few minutes ahead of us.
Because you see, we find another beautiful promise in the Word of God: “Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Our minds have a hard time wrapping themselves around the idea of eternity, but it cannot be compared to our seconds, minutes, and hours. So even if I lived another 100 years, and Jesus tarried in His return, my sweet Mrs. Davis would only have been with Jesus a few hours before she’d turn around and see me there with her!
As you remember your loved ones, hold on to spiritual hope.
And more than that, share your faith so others will have hope also, as we all watch for “The blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
In loving memory of Nannie Ruth Davis.