Death, Tears, and a Great Big Hope

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Are you afraid of dying or of losing someone you love?

Last weekend I found myself at a place I really didn’t want to go. I mean I did, but I didn’t. Ever felt that way?

See, I’m not a big fan of cemeteries, but I had traveled a good long way to be at this one. So as much as I wanted to have my sister turn the car around and take me on another bike ride along Lake Michigan, instead I kept my mouth shut as we entered Greendale Cemetery in Kohler, Wisconsin.

To make my uneasiness worse, the whole place looked like a scene out of a depressing movie. Not only did the rows of tombstones and memorials look cold and final, a thunderstorm brewed overhead, threatening rain at any moment.

Have I mentioned I really didn’t want to be there?

My sister’s rental car pulled up to the site, and we got out. She took off on a walk so I could have some privacy for this moment I had been longing for and dreading all at once. I got out and walked to the place I had tried not to envision for years.

My mom’s grave.

My sweet momma—the woman who gave me everything she had and poured so much love and sweetness into my life—lost a battle to cancer seven years ago. When she died, I went to her memorial in California, but wasn’t able to attend the funeral in Wisconsin. Life had been busy since then, and I just hadn’t been able to make the trip. (And then there’s that whole thing about not loving cemeteries, remember? Hardly motivational.)

Sorrow turns to genuine praise when we know the hope of the gospel.

But I was there now, and as I looked down at her name etched in a metal plate covering a granite stone, the tears came. Big tears, splashing down and watering the grass at my feet. I missed her as much in that moment as I did the morning she breathed her last breath. But as I stood there, a giant wave of grief washing back over me, I felt God’s Spirit whisper,

Look up.”

Look Up

I lifted my chin, and what I saw took my breath away. In the middle of a dark, threatening sky, light broke through. A patch of blue, encircled by silver-tipped clouds—a reminder of heaven. God reached into space and time and whispered to my heart, “She is no longer there, but I AM.”

Even in my grief, I couldn’t help but sing, all spluttery-voiced and teary, the words to Matt Redman’s song “You Never Let Go”

Oh no, You never let go

Through the calm and through the storm

Oh no, You never let go

In every high and every low

Oh no, You never let go

Lord, You never let go of me.

As I stood there singing, my hands raised in worship, the rain began to fall. It splashed cool on my palms, but still I couldn’t stop singing.

And I can see a light that is coming

For the heart that holds on

A glorious light beyond all compare

And there will be an end to these troubles

But until that day comes

We’ll live to know You here on the earth.

Can I be honest? The peace that filled my heart surprised even me! But that’s what hope does. In the saddest moments of our lives, we can’t stay sad for long. Sorrow turns to genuine praise when we know the hope of the gospel—this life is not all there is!

The Hope that Keeps Us Afloat

At the end of the day, even though my mascara was all rubbed off and salty residue burned the corners of my eyes, I was okay. And I know that no matter what storms hit you, you can be okay, too, if you’ve given your life to God, if you’ve embraced the gospel like we’ve been talking about this month. This is the hope we have:

We want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died (1 Thess. 4:13–14 NLT, emphasis mine).

If you’ve ever lost someone you loved, or have lived in fear of that happening, the hope that this life isn’t the end can transform you. When you know—and live like you believe—that Good News, then death loses its fangs. Loss can no longer destroy you. You can take your eyes off the grave below your feet and look up instead to heaven with a heart full of praise.

Because Jesus died and rose again, we have the hope of an eternity with Him. An eternity, people! That crazy hope should revolutionize our lives.

Let’s get real for a minute. Are you afraid of dying or of losing someone you love? How can understanding the gospel change the way you view death? How can it motivate you to share the Good News with others?

-Written by Jessie Minassian

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