But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
All people grieve, but Christians grieve differently. All people experience sadness, but Christians are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).
Why is that?
All people grieve, because we all experience loss, as part of living in a fallen world. Every one of us is cut out of the same cloth, which includes having God-given emotions like sorrow and joy. But what keeps these emotions simultaneous for the Christian is the promise of an eternity without one of them—without sorrow. There will be no sorrow in heaven, but only sheer joy in the presence of our God and Savior. There will be so much joy that all sadness will be driven away! For this reason, we experience peaceful joy alongside unsettling grief. We can grieve with hope, because we know the future.
One day, after the Second Coming, the Lord “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). This is why the apostle Paul urges the believers in Thessalonica to “not grieve as others do who have no hope.” The basis of this exhortation is the encouragement received by thinking about the coming of the Lord to judge the wicked, and complete the redemption of his people. When Jesus returns, the saved from every millennia will meet him and “always be with the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 4:17).
In the presence of the Savior and Judge there will be no sorrow. Death, grief, and loss will no longer be able to hurt you. Sin, the originator of death and every form of loss, will be no more. Through resurrection, the sting of death will finally be removed (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Knowing these truths creates tension in our hearts. We grieve our losses here, but we long for the joy of eternity, as “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Instead of grieving like those who have no hope, you can anticipate Jesus saying, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).
So grieve. But don’t grieve like those who have no hope.
[An edited version of this post is now part of the forthcoming devotional, A Small Book for the Hurting Heart.]