Last week my staff and I conducted a ministerial conference in the Rocky Mountain States.
One subject of special interest was this: How does one comfort someone who has suffered catastrophic loss? What can we do or say that will help? We will all go through this dark experience during our lifetimes, and many sometimes find it awkward or difficult to talk to someone who has recently suffered a major loss through death: a mate, a child or a parent. Many are in denial—it's emotionally tough to deal with the fact that they will never see or talk to them again in this lifetime.
So what can we say that will give relief and comfort, even assurance to the one grieving?
1. Sometimes we don't know what to say or do in cases like these.
I'd like to share a few practical points from the conference that may be helpful when we face this moment: Do not avoid the person close to you who is reeling from the death of a loved one. Don't pretend that it isn't happening. Their grief may absorb their entire consciousness. Do make yourself available and be around them in showing support, even if you don't say much. What's meaningful to the person going through shock is that you as their friend are around and available.
2. When speaking to them, do not be afraid to mention the person who died.
The grieving person is stunned and deeply hurt by the loss. Your making mention of the person by name can actually be a comforting action and help them deal with the loss.
3. Where possible, do take care of some of the normal and routine needs of the person going through grief.
Provide food is most common…and it does comfort. The grieving person often has little interest in taking care of some of the simple things of living.
In my experience, the greatest comfort often comes from understanding what really happens when one dies. Paul encourages a grieving church in Thessalonica to deal intelligently and not ignorantly about death:
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [those who have died in the faith], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”
Continuing, Paul wrote: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Why comfort one another with these words.
American King James Version×).
Here a supernatural literal resurrection from the dead at the sound of a trumpet is promised. The trumpet sounds when Jesus Christ returns and the dead return to life! Note this encouraging companion statement in 1 Corinthians 15:52 1 Corinthians 15:52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
American King James Version×: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible , and we shall be changed” (emphasis added).
Knowing the truth of what a wonderful future awaits those whose human life ends does more to alleviate the pain of loss than anything else I could say. This truth gives hope and assurance that death is not the absolute end.
As I write this, we are preparing to observe an annual biblical festival called the Feast of Trumpets . This festival celebrates the return of Jesus Christ to this earth and the resurrection of the dead. As we observe this day, it represents a reassuring and comforting declaration of peace and joy for all.
To understand more about the Feast of Trumpets and other festivals of God, I invite you to read our free Bible study aid God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind . This short but packed booklet lays out all the biblical plan that Christians observe that give them hope and comfort. You may be surprised at the depth of knowledge of sure and wonderful truth that is in the pages of your Bible. After you read it, I would welcome your comments.
PS—Next week I want to write to you about another biblical festival that follows 10 days after the Feast of Trumpets . It is called the Day of Atonement . Observing this day opens up more understanding about a relationship that God is powerfully working out for you and me.