Perspectives from the Bible

The Bible engages with some of life’s biggest questions – who we are, what’s our place in the world, what happens after we die. And it can speak to us in our grief.

Death, life after death and grief in the Bible

One of the central pillars of Christian faith is the belief that death is not the end. The resurrection of Jesus at the first Easter places life after death and hope beyond despair right at the heart of everything that Christians believe. Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that what happened to him will happen to us too. We believe that this means that death is not the end and that, even in the darkest night, light will eventually begin to shine.

The certainty of Christian hope does not in any way belittle the heart-wrenching, disorienting grip of grief that we experience when our loved ones die. Jesus himself wept at the graveside of his friend, Lazarus (John 11.35). Bible verses in The Psalms speak often of the despair that falls upon us from time to time in our lives:

'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?' (Psalm 22.1 NRSV)

'My soul is full of troubles… I am like those who have no help' (Psalm 88.3-4 NRSV)

What we learn from the Psalms, however, is that no grief is too deep, no despair too hollow to bring into the loving presence of God. God does not mind us grieving, weeping or even shouting at him. God loves us and yearns for us to turn to him with our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows. 

Nothing can separate us from the Love of God

The vast love of God is perhaps best summed up by the words of Romans 8.38-39:

'For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8:38-39 NRSV)

In the midst of our grief, it can be comforting to know that God loves us and will always be with us.

It can also be comforting to remember that this too applies to those whom we have loved and lost. When talking about life after death it is very easy to slip into complicated theories about what may have happened to our loved ones. Ultimately the knowledge that they are with God and that death cannot separate them from God’s love is enough.

Resurrection

The New Testament has a lot to say about what will happen to us after we die. Its vision is that we, like Jesus, will be raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.12) to resurrection bodies full of life, energy, ability and power (1 Corinthians 15.43-45). Beyond the grave there is new life, hope and love; a life in which God will wipe away all tears from our eyes and in which there will be no more death, no more mourning, weeping or pain (Revelation 21.4).

This vision of the future provides Christians with hope and strength to carry on, even when it feels like we will never be joyful again. The hope of life beyond death, of joy beyond sorrow, stands at the heart of Christian faith. It offers comfort at times of loss and helps us, in the words of the beautiful hymn ‘O love that wilt not let me go’, to ‘trace the rainbow through the rain’.

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