Chip Stapleton Highland Presbyterian Church May 11th , 2020 Hunkered Down Devotions
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. The words of Paul in these verses have always struck me, ‘so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.’ What a heart-wrenching idea – grieving without hope. It sounds like perhaps the worst possible kind of grief. The very definition of ‘hopelessness’.
This is the situation the Thessalonians were asking Paul about, they wanted to know - to be reassured about what happens to the faithful when they die. This idea became more and more important as these first Christians began to grapple with the reality that Christ’s second coming might not occur in their lifetime (as many of the first Christians believed it would). With that realization that the normal ebb and flow of life and death would continue, and with it – for the first time since their conversion – these early Christians began to wonder and question what our faith holds for us after death in this life.
These are questions that all of us wrestle with at one time or another. When these questions come – usually as we struggle to deal with loss and grief and pain – where we look for answers, comfort, and hope makes all the difference.
This is what Paul is sharing with the Thessalonians and all of us. When grief comes, and it will; when pain comes, and it will; when loss comes, and it will where we place our trust, in whom we look to for hope makes all the difference.
Paul tells us that the only place to find true, powerful, and transformative hope in times of trouble is to look to Jesus. It is in turning to Jesus that we can face the grief that often comes with life and carry on. It is because of Jesus that we can have hope, even when we mourn. It is because of Jesus that we can say – or even sing ‘It is well’ as we stand to remember those we have loved and lost.
This is always true, but as I have been part of several funerals in this time of quarantine, it has been remarkable to me to see the hope of Jesus shining through in the faith of those that are being made to deal with all of the new and different circumstances along with all of the grief that always comes with a loss.
What I mean to say is this – know that no matter the circumstances, no matter the situation, no matter how deep the grief – all is not lost. There is always, in and through Jesus Christ, hope. There is always, in and through Jesus Christ, peace. There is, in and through Jesus Christ, comfort and love.
The lives of the faithful around us bear witness to it, the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us bear witness to it. In this time when so many around us are gripped with fear and mourning, we need to bear witness to this same hope so that others might see it – and see the source of it, Jesus Christ, when they look to us. Sharing God’s Love, Chip
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the hope that we have in you. Guide us to live lives that demonstrate and share that hope with others. Amen.