But you will still grieve
“…you will not grieve like people who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13b
But you will still grieve.
“It’s All Good when you accept Christ!” is an implied message too many hear when church is new to us. When it is not all good after we give this Christ thing a go, here’s a sad truth: the short-lived faithful leave feeling discouraged, sad, guilty, lost and lonely.
When Paul addresses the young church in Thessalonica, he may appear to give these church newbies the glossy version of Christianity, the sales pitch, or the sensational headline we are too familiar with these days. Think about the first, second and third hope you had of losing weight through miracle regimens. You wanted a desired outcome, weight loss, and experienced some success with each program or specialized diet, and then…yeah…you avoided the scale in your bathroom because there was failure at some point.
When we set Christianity up as some glossy, pain-free event, we fail others. Worse, we fail God because the message—His message—isn’t glossy. Christians do grieve. Christians do hurt. There are valleys and there are sinkholes. There is pain and there is suffering. There can be seasons, perhaps years, of profound, aching loss.
The “Be Happy!” sticker Christians want to slap on all troubling situations is not just stupid at times, it’s wrong.
There is a season for everything and every season grows something. We may not want what has been cultivated in time, at least not at first, but longstanding pain does something: it teaches us how to respond more deeply, love more completely.
The Bible is filled with stories of people in great pain. Sometimes we need to stop, right in the middle of a scripture story, or, specifically, right in the middle of someone else’s story so that we, like Paul, can do what Christ calls us to do—restore hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind. This restoration is not a quick fix. It takes time. It takes heart. It takes compassion.
In being the new kids on the block, many in Thessalonica thought Christ would return immediately. They were concerned when loved ones died and their Savior had not yet returned.
Paul met their misinformation like we can. He did it with the understanding of one word—hope. Sit with people who feel discouraged, sad, guilty, lost and lonely. Stay in their mess. Don’t try to sweep away their heartache. Just listen. Just wait. You are not God; God is God. Paul knew what you will experience—hope will come in the right time, not a moment before.
Our scripture tomorrow is 1 Thessalonians 4:9-18.
PRAYER: I pray with hope for those who are grieving. I ask You send me those hurting with neither Band-Aid nor tourniquet, just my heart. Amen.