We often go to extremes to comfort ourselves while walking past the very things that will comfort us.
One of the most shocking and unsettling things we experience in this life is losing a loved one. It hurts. To go from having someone in your life that you see and spend time with to them suddenly not being there is disorienting. The hole the person leaves can tempt us to manufacture their presence.
Scripture teaches that those in Christ who die are with Him in Heaven. Absent from the body, present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Jesus told the thief on the cross, hours from death, that he would be with Him that day in paradise (Luke 23:43). Paul says to depart and be with Christ is better than life on earth (Philippians 1:23). These examples and more show that Christians who die enter the presence of Christ. And Jesus dwells in Heaven.
Nobody lingers around on the earth after death. Christians who die go to Heaven with Jesus. This seems clear from Scripture. But often in our attempts to draw comfort in our grief when a loved one passes, we imagine them still here in unorthodox ways. I’ve heard many Christians talk like this, even those I thought were mature in their faith.
When Kaleb died, we received a beautiful set of wind chimes as a gift. I love wind chimes. But on the chimes there was an inscription attached. It read:
“I’m in the wind that blows this chime to make its music play. Each note says I love you and think of you each day. I wait for you in heaven, but visit here at times, as a tiny little breeze blowing gently on these chimes.”
There’s so many problems with this well-intentioned poem. First, Kaleb is not in the wind, nor is any other deceased loved one. Second, he does not visit here at times as a tiny little breeze or anything else. This sentimental poem and image of a loved one in the wind or any other form aims to comfort hurting and bereaved people.
My argument is that they are counterfeit comforts that fall short of where we find true comfort.
Bible-believing Christians must not resort to superstitions or traditions of false religions.
Beliefs about dead people roaming the earth or manifesting in other forms links to the occult, to Hinduism and its reincarnation doctrine, to Shintoism, and other forms of mysticism. Christian doctrine has no place for these beliefs.
Our loved ones who die do not become a ray of sunshine piercing through the sky on a cloudy day.
They’re not the butterfly who keeps flying around you.
Deceased family and friends are not the wind whipping through that awakens your chimes to ring or that bird who perches in the tree and stares in your direction.
People often cling to mystical ideas of our dead loved one’s communicating through the physical features of this world, but they don’t. Not according to Scripture. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that our spirits visit earth to reassure or comfort those who loved them.
Yet many Christians adopt this way of thinking. For years I’ve heard professing Christians tell stories about a dead loved one smiling down on them because a cloud had a particular shape or a certain flower bloomed that wasn’t previously there. This is animism, which believes places, nature, and other objects possess a spiritual essence or connection. Hence, many well-meaning, but misinformed followers of Jesus put too much importance and significance to objects to memorialize — and sometimes materialize — their deceased loved ones.
Christians are notorious for seeking comfort in ideas that are less comforting than what God promises to give them.
I understand why many do this.
The pain of loss is real and we grope for glimpses of hope and solace. The thought of a deceased loved one communicating to us is consoling. It helps us feel close to them. Having lost my son at the end of last year, I know the longing for connection. It’s real. We think some kind of connection will comfort our aching hearts.
But God, in the Scriptures, offers us a far greater comfort than some mystical connection to our dead loved one: Himself.
God offers us the comfort of His presence and His help. The Scriptures teach us to fear not, because God is with us (Isaiah 41:10). He is the God of all comfort who comforts us in our afflictions (2 Corinthians 1:3-6). He is a very present help in our time of need (Psalm 46:1), our Rock and Fortress (Psalm 18:2). Jesus promises us all-sufficient grace in our deepest trials and distress (2 Corinthians 12:9). Psalm 23 shows the Lord as our faithful shepherd who guides us through the valley of the shadow of death.
Repeatedly, God promises through His Word that He will guide, lead, strengthen, and comfort us through our darkest seasons of life. When we grieve the loss of a loved one, we do not need a mystical link with them. The Lord promises to give us so much more than what we settle for through those illusions. We need Him.
There is a sweetness and closeness to the Lord we’re invited to experience through prayer, time in the Word, and in the local church. We can have peace through His presence. There He strengthens us to walk through seasons of grief in hope. We don’t need signs from our loved ones. Jesus offers Himself as the peace for our burdened hearts. And He is enough.
If we belong to Christ, then we too will join with our deceased loved one’s already in His presence. One day there will be a glorious reunion that made our time apart seems as nothing. Jesus has secured this for us through his death and resurrection.
By faith in Jesus we receive forgiveness of sin and an inheritance forever in the Kingdom of God. We suffer separation from those we love for now. But through Christ, not only will every tear be wiped away and death be no more, but we walk our way towards eternity with the comfort of His presence.
Our deceased loved ones are something far greater than wind in our face or butterflies in our garden. They are glorified with Jesus. And that same Jesus is with us — always — even to the end of the age.