Death is the most feared and hated ordeal in the human experience. It is painful. It can hurt when death finally takes you, but it is almost certainly more painful for those who continue on and must witness a death.
Unfortunately, we, in our culture, have made death even worse. We have insulated ourselves from it, shipping the dying off to hospitals and nursing homes. In our movies, death is dramatized and made unbelievable. It happens with a splatter of blood or when all loose-ends are neatly tied-up. Most of us don’t see real death until we are fully grown.
When death finally strikes and takes someone close to us, it can feel unbearable. It has a transcendent weight behind it that buries us deep in sorrow. But in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul seeks to relieve some of that strain.
There Paul says, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” He reassures us that those who have passed on will be the first to receive the blessings of the Lord.
Paul’s words don’t end death. Death will continue to happen. And they don’t remove its sting. Death’s sting remains. Until, Christ comes again. Paul doesn’t make us feel better, but he does give us hope. The burden of death is not unbearable, because we have hope that it will be taken away. We have hope in the Day of the Lord.