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, NKJV).
On Wednesday, August 3, just a few minutes past noon, my husband and I sat at my 90-year-old mother’s bedside and watched her slip into eternity. What mixed emotions accompanied her “graduation to heaven,” though we’d long anticipated it. We knew we were saying goodbye to her earthly body, but “until we meet again” to her spirit. It would be foolish to think that just because we know where she is and that we will see her again that we don’t feel grief or sorrow, but that sorrow is not the same as what is felt by those whose loved ones die without knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
I experienced much the same thing when my dad died almost 12 years ago, though the immediate joy was perhaps a bit more intense, as he didn’t receive Jesus as Savior until the last week of his life—something we’d prayed for over many years. Mom, on the other hand, came to know Christ in a personal way at the age of 50, and God graciously gave her 40 more years to enjoy relationship with Him here on earth.
Whether we are blessed to receive Christ as children and live our entire life with our hand tucked securely in His or we mercifully come to him on our death bed, those of us who bid farewell to born-again loved ones can rejoice even as we grieve. To witness the end of my mom’s earthly suffering was to rejoice that she had at last stepped into the presence of the One who held her in His nail-scarred hands throughout her earthly journey and even as she passed through the valley of the shadow of death. One day I too will graduate to heaven and will at last see my Savior face to face—as well as all those who have gone on before me.
Indeed, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope, for Christ alone is our Hope. Thank You, Jesus!