Is Everything Sad Going to Come Untrue?
2016 has been a year with many church funerals. As individuals and as a church we have lost many people who have been important parts of our life. Some haven’t been able to attend St. Andrew’s church for a long time, others were with us one week and then gone the next. It’s been a privilege to see the support and encouragement that so many in our church have offered to those in need: though we always need God’s help to love one another better. The Bible says that Christians are not to grieve ‘as those who have no hope’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13) but what does that mean in a year like this?
As a church we are encouraged to spread our sorrow at the feet of Jesus. This is following the way of Christians throughout history. When John the Baptist was killed, his friends made their way to Jesus and told Him all that had happened (Matthew 14:12). They knew that Jesus wouldn’t turn them away, that He would have compassion on them. Jesus’ closest followers seemed always to mark how He responded with intense compassion to those who have been bereaved. His ‘heart went out’ to the widow who lost her son (Luke 7:13). When He visits His friends Martha and Mary after the death of their dear brother Lazarus He is moved to tears at the loss (John 11:33-35). In all their distress He too was distressed (Isaiah 63:9) and He mourned with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).
So our hope starts with the certainty that we do not believe in a Jesus who knows nothing about what it is like to mourn and grieve. He is not some remote TV evangelist, who proclaims the Christian life is full only of happiness and laughter. Nor is Biblical faith like Buddhism which says we need to keep ourselves from the attachments of friends and family. Jesus knew that John the Baptist had ‘gone to a better place’, yet He still mourned the loss of His friend. Jesus was ‘touched by the feeling of our infirmities’ (Hebrews 4, KJV). As the hymn says: Jesus the one whose ‘glories knew no end’ came to earth to ‘taste our sadness’. We can be confident, therefore, that He is readier than anyone to care for us when we mourn. It is right to be saddened by the loss and absence of a dear family member or friend and we turn to Jesus in our sorrow.
Hope emerges when we trust that Jesus is the only one who can truly turn sorrow into joy. In Jesus we don’t just find compassion but also find one who has bought by His death all that the Church needs for joy. His love brought Him not just to shed tears over us but to shed His blood to change the course of human history. As a result, Jesus is the one who ‘gives songs in the night’ (Job 35:10) and turns ‘darkness into light’ (Job 12:22). He is the only one who is able to take the sorrow of this world and make it into joy. His resurrection points to the day when everything that is sad becomes finally untrue. All sorrow will be turned to joy. Those who have died will be raised to life. The things that sadden us now become part of what God turns for the Church’s gladness and joy.