|But I don’t want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have not hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)|
|Over a lifetime, most of us will attend far too many funerals. We will gather with family, or friends, to pay our respects; trying to come up with words of comfort that while politely received are generally not really heard by the survivors that remain behind.
In spite of the slide show of the deceased’s life that plays over and over in the background, we’ll wonder what kind of life the deceased really had. We wonder whether he, or she, was satisfied with life or not, happy or not, surrounded by friends or lonely, or something altogether different.
In our own way each of us will feel the sorrow in our heart that comes from the passing of a beloved family member or friend. Yet, Paul in his letter to the Christians in Thessalonica tells us to be careful of the type of sorrow that we feel. He tells these Christians not to sorrow as one without hope.
He reminds us that for the world, the non-believers, death is the final act; there is nothing beyond but the decay of the body. The person is gone never to be seen again. Death just leaves a loneliness that can never be satisfied.
He is reminding them, and us, that death is not the final act of life. Rather, it is the gateway into an eternal life filled with peace and joy that comes when we collect on the promise that God made to His children. No longer is the departed one beset with the problems that were a part of living on this side of death. Suffering is no more; replaced by the peace and joy of being with the Father and the Son.
For the Christian who has lost a fellow brother or sister we will see the one called home again. Yes, we will know grief but it will one day be replaced by the love that we will experience when we are once again united with our brother or sister.
|Father, I do grieve the loss of my family members, my friends, my brothers and sisters. Guide me through my grief to come to know peace that only You can provide. I look forward to the day when we will be reunited in Your presence. Until then, comfort me so that I can comfort others who are also grieving. In the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus, AMEN.|
|The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)|
|There are situations in life where fear is a natural and appropriate emotion. We face an unknown and our anticipation of what could be there; a sense of danger only serving to heighten the anticipation.
Look back at David as he faced Goliath, nine feet tall and in full battle armor. David is significantly shorter and armed only with a sling and some stones from the river. While others may have been afraid, David trusted that God would protect him and enable him to defeat this seemingly undefeatable foe.
We see this same trust in God in Esther. She was tasked with carrying knowledge of a plan to destroy her people, God’s people, to her husband the King. She knew that if she entered the royal chamber to speak to him without his permission he could have her killed. Yet she, fearful, entered anyway.
What did David and Esther know that we at times forget?
They knew that as long as they were acting according to the will of God, He would give the strength to accomplish the task. They knew that neither one of them possessed the strength to succeed on their own.
|Heavenly Father, there are those times when I am overcome with fear. Help me to remain calm when fear overtakes me. Remind me that I have no strength of my own but that You are the source of my strength as I face the unknown. Lead me to react with grace that honors You. In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus, AMEN.|
|Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matt. 18:21)
|It would be interesting to know what had taken place to prompt Peter to ask this question. Had something happened that sorely tried Peter’s patience? Was he venting that frustration to his Rabbi? We’ll never know.
What we do know, however, is that Jesus tells him that there is no limit to the number of times that forgiveness should be offered. Probably not what Peter wanted to hear.
Buried just underneath the surface of this conversation is the key question that drives it – what is forgiveness, what does it mean to forgive (or be forgiven)? What is it about this act of forgiveness that dictates that it be limitless?
To forgive is to dismiss an offense as if it never happened. It implies that the offense will never be brought up again. It doesn’t mean that we tolerate the offense. Even though we forgive, the sin behind the offense must still be addressed.
We often wrestle with forgiveness because we want our “pound of flesh” before we are willing to forgive. That is not the model that God has given us. If God demanded His “pound of flesh” before He forgave us, how could we know when He had satisfied Himself and we are forgiven?
And what if God said that each person only has so many times that he, or she, can be forgiven before He just gives up on us and permanently separates Himself from us? Again, we could never know when we are forgiven.
So, the next time that you are in the position to forgive or not, ask yourself this question, “does what I want in this situation match what God wants for me, for the one who has offended me?”
|Heavenly Father, so often I am in the situation where I’ve been hurt by the actions of another. Help me to see the path of forgiveness and choose it over that of revenge. Guide me by the Holy Spirit to forgive when it seems as if that is the last thing that should be done. Help me to heal from the offense committed against me so that I will remain on the path of righteousness. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.