One of the greatest sufferings we face as humans is the grief of losing a loved one to death. And one of the greatest areas of hope God offers in His Word has to do with this very matter of death. Jesus defeated death on the cross. He secured eternal life with Him for all His followers. But it can be difficult, as a Christian and particularly as a biblical counselor, to rightly process and respond to both the sorrow of death and the joy of eternal life. What should we think and feel about these things? And how can we help others who are struggling with loss to think and feel biblically as well?
Rebekah Hannah has written a helpful article for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors that highlights how Jesus responded to death when His friend Lazarus died. The article is titled, “When Jesus Wept.” I have included a few quoted paragraphs below, but I highly recommend taking the time to read the whole article if you can.
When Jesus weeps over death in the Bible, he physically and emotionally responds to the pain and suffering around him. He doesn’t hide his emotions. He explicitly takes time to be deeply moved not only externally but also at a heart level. It is not an act. It is not unnatural. The level of care and the multi-faceted emotional response that Jesus had towards death came from genuine concern and love for those who were touched by death’s sting.
Death deserves sackcloth and ashes. Jesus was willing to sit in the pain of those whom he loved. Because we know Jesus’ example was always perfect, we see that mourning in the face of death does not indicate faithlessness. Far from faithlessness, these appropriate feelings toward death indicate genuine and heartfelt sorrow at the reality of suffering.
While we can rejoice that Christ has conquered death, Jesus’ weeping over the death of Lazarus shows us that the certainty of future resurrection does not mean that loss of life no longer brings pain. It only means that in this deep pain we must seek to understand it in the context of a greater hope; a hope that is surer than death. But the pain of death is still pain – deep, abiding and often sharp pain.