Authored by Steve Hearts
Are you currently mourning or grieving the loss of someone you love? Does the idea of getting beyond the pain and sorrow seem impossible to you? Do peace and comfort seem nonexistent or out of reach?
Jesus’ disciples knew what it meant to mourn and grieve. They had seen Jesus crucified and His body laid in a tomb. One day He was with them, and the next He was gone—or so it must have felt. They’d no doubt had their fair share of tests during the three years they had spent with Jesus. But the test they endured right after His death must have been one of the most difficult.
Since their Master had given them plenty of advance warning concerning His betrayal, crucifixion, death, and resurrection on the third day, you’d think they would have felt better prepared to face everything.1
He had clearly told them, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”2 At the time Jesus spoke these words, His disciples hadn’t fully grasped how soon they would be seeing Him. It seems they thought that He meant in the afterlife, not just three days after His death.
When He was crucified and laid to rest, they wrestled with doubt. They had seen their Master perform miracles of resurrection, but now here He was entombed himself.
This dejected, melancholic state of mind was the one in which Mary Magdalene found them on Easter Sunday. When she came running to them with the news of finding the tomb empty and seeing an angel who told her that Jesus had risen, at first they didn’t believe her. That is, until Peter and John went and saw it for themselves.3
When Jesus manifested Himself to them, they discovered that He was more than just “alive.” He also had a far-out body that could do truly amazing things like appear and disappear, even when doors were shut.4
Later on, He appeared to a couple of His followers as they traveled from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He conversed with them the whole way there, but they were kept from recognizing Him until later that evening when they were having dinner together.5
Through these and many other signs, He convinced His grief-stricken followers that He had indeed been resurrected, and their grief turned to joy, just as He’d told them it would.
This is all well and good, you may be thinking. But how is it supposed to help me get beyond the pain of my own loss?
I know how you must feel. I’m no stranger to the pain of loss myself. My mother passed away nine years ago—and dealing with her loss was truly a day-by-day, painstaking process. In an effort to stay “tough” and hide from the pain, I would tell myself, Mom’s gone and that’s that. I’ll see her again, yes, but who knows how long it will be before then? So I may as well tough it out and stay focused on the here and now.
Sounds like a pretty joyless mindset, wouldn’t you say? I resigned myself to it for a long time, until it eventually took its toll on me. Thankfully, the Lord and His Holy Spirit began to change my perspective. I dove into His Word with an open heart—and realized that we, the followers of Jesus who live today, have just as sure a guarantee of the eventual resurrection of our loved ones who have died as the disciples of old had of the resurrection of Jesus.
Paul says to the Thessalonians, “We do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”6
I remember going with my relatives to a mass that took place a little over a year after my mother died. The choir sang a beautiful, joyful song in Latin, something to the effect of, “He rose again. He rose again. Hallelujah!”
My mood was the exact opposite of the words to that song. I thought, “Yeah, maybe Jesus rose again. I just wish Mom would have.” Being blind, I’m obviously unable to see people’s faces, but something tells me I probably had the longest face in the crowd as I sat there sulking, anxious for the mass to be over.
A few years later, as I studied through the promises made in the Bible concerning the coming resurrection of the dead, the Lord spoke to my heart regarding that song, “The day will come when you’ll be able to sing it about your mother as well. Meanwhile, you can sing it to Me with all your heart, in thankfulness that I rose again—and that, because I did, your mother will do the same someday.”
These words filled me with a joy I had not known since Mom left us. While this joy didn’t necessarily fill the void left in my heart by her absence, it sure soothed the pain of her loss.
I had practically tortured myself, trying to be tough in order to hide from the pain. Now that façade was no longer necessary. I could both hope and rejoice in the knowledge that, although I have no idea when this will happen, I will someday see my mother again, just as the disciples saw Jesus again. And I don’t have to wait until then for my grief to be turned to joy. Even though the greatest and fullest joy is obviously reserved for that glorious day when we all meet Jesus, I could begin rejoicing right now. Why should I deprive myself of joy in this lifetime?
These realizations caused a resurrection to take place in my own soul. The joy which I had allowed to die through my own pain and sorrow and the disguise I had hid behind was coming to life again.
Now, besides Christmas, Easter is one of my favorite days to celebrate, and it holds a special place in my heart. Although my personal miracle of inner resurrection didn’t take place exactly on Easter, it’s an excellent day to celebrate it. As I do, my joy continues to grow, and I know that nothing or no one can take it from me.
Are you reading this article, wishing you could have that same joy? Be comforted in knowing that you can. You can ask God to help you to look beyond the pain and emptiness of your loss to the glorious life to come, when all will be renewed, resurrected, and restored. Then will begin a process of renewal, resurrection, and restoration right in your own heart, as your joy is brought back to life.
Let me add one more pertinent fact. My mother’s name just happens to be “Joy.” I know that someday she will be resurrected, even as my spiritual “joy” was.
1 See Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:22, Matthew 20:17–18, Mark 8:31, Mark 9:31, Mark 10:32–34, Luke 9:21–22, Luke 18:31–33.
2 John 16:22 NIV
3 John 20:1–4
4 John 20:19–20
5 Luke 24:13–31
6 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 NIV
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2016 by The Family International