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Series 2 - Bible Answers for...

Hello, friends. The death of a loved one is heartbreaking. And each bereavement has its special set of sorrows and other strong emotions. There is the sorrow that comes suddenly and shockingly with an unexpected death, and there is the long sorrow of gradually losing someone during a terminal illness. The untimely death of a child is especially devastating.

Consider a man and wife who have had a long and loving marriage. As God told Adam and Eve, they have become "one flesh." When one dies, the surviving spouse usually feels forsaken, empty, lonely and torn in two. And, of course, similar feelings are evoked when any loved one dies.

When you love someone, you become vulnerable to the sorrow that comes from losing that person. But love is all-important, and God doesn't want us to hold back on loving people to avoid future grief. The Bible also makes it clear that our grief will be temporary, while our joy will be forever! The Bible gives us the hope of a fabulous future when we will be reunited with our loved ones!

Lesson: Dealing With the Death of a Loved One

Bible Study - Dealing With the Death of a Loved OneIn this lesson we'll study what the Bible reveals about death, about God's promise of life after death, how to comfort one another and how to obtain God's gift of comfort and peace.

Don Hooser, a minister in Washington, relates this story about his family:

"In 1952, when I was 11, my brother Roddy died. At age 3½, he was a super cute and lovable kid. Our family was devastated. No one close to me had ever died (except my beloved pet dog). It felt like the end of the world. Today I still choke up when I talk about Roddy.

"Over the years, I have often reflected on how God used Roddy's death to work together for much good (Romans 8:28).

"The most profound effect on our family was a greater seriousness about God and the Bible. Even though I didn't stay serious throughout my teen years, always in the back of my mind was the thought: 'I've got to do whatever it takes to see Roddy again.' I know that thought was a major factor in making me, at age 21, receptive to God's calling.

"After that I introduced my three brothers to God's truth, which led to them, one by one, coming into God's Church. Since then we brothers have been blessed with marriage and children, so the knowledge of God's wonderful truth is being passed on to children and grandchildren. Roddy's death has had a profound, far-reaching effect."

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Hope and Comfort

Let's go straight to the most comforting truth in all the Bible—God's revelation regarding the resurrections from the dead! The Bible says that at the return of Jesus Christ, everyone who has been a faithful follower of Him will be raised in the "first resurrection" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 20:6).

But what about "the rest of the dead" (Revelation 20:5)? They will be resurrected in the second resurrection. People assume that the only time God can call and save someone is in this life—before the person dies. But a careful study of the Scriptures shows a little understood but comforting truth: All the people who don't receive God's saving knowledge in this life are not lost—they will be resurrected to a physical life in the second resurrection. When Christ is King over all the earth, He will make sure that everyone receives the knowledge of God's plan that offers eternal life to all who believe and obey Him!

You can find detailed studies of these resurrections in other lessons. The second coming of Christ and the first resurrection are explained in Lesson 8, and the second resurrection is explained in Lesson 15 of the "Bible Prophecy and You" series in these Bible Study Guides.

The big point for this lesson is this: God will give everyone who has ever lived—from Adam and Eve on—the gift to be able to understand the Bible and to choose to repent, change and accept the gift of eternal life in God's Kingdom! This indeed is God's most comforting revelation!

What is the primary way that the Bible portrays death?

John 11:11
He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up."

John goes on to relate how Jesus raised Lazarus from death to life (John 11:12-45). In the Bible, death is often referred to as sleep—a total lack of consciousness (Psalm 13:3; Ecclesiastes 9:5). The beautiful metaphor of sleep emphasizes the fact that the first death is temporary and that everyone who dies will be awakened!This understanding of death is much more comforting than all the unbiblical and erroneous ideas about death.

When someone dies, family and friends often suffer with regrets and feelings of guilt about things they had said or done, or things they neglected to say or do. But God doesn't want us to beat ourselves up about the past. He wants us to repent of our sins and look forward to our reunion in the next life, when we will have plenty of opportunities to talk to our loved ones.

Does the Bible portray death as an enemy?

1 Corinthians 15:22, 26
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive…
The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

God created us with a kind of instinct for self-preservation, and the Bible portrays death as our enemy. But after the return of Christ, "death [will be] swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54).

A person who is close to God can, in one sense, look forward to death, as Paul did (Philippians 1:21-24). But what he or she is really looking forward to is not death itself, but waking up with a new spirit body in God's Kingdom!

What does the Bible say about grieving over the death of a loved one?

Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

1 Thessalonians 4:13
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.

It's normal and healthy to grieve when we lose the companionship of a loved one. Those who repress grief rather than expressing it suffer more emotional problems in the long run. But healthy grieving depends on facing the reality of death. In today's humanistic culture that is obsessed with prolonging human life, many people avoid preparing for death or even discussing this topic. Feeling it is taboo to even say the word "died," people will use a euphemism like "passed." Denying death makes it harder for people to grieve and support one another and heal.

Those who truly understand the Bible feel and express grief, not fear and despair; their hope and faith give them great comfort. The apostle Paul, right after explaining about the promise of the resurrection, said, "Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

(During a time of grief, please avoid two common and serious mistakes: Don't try to "drown your sorrows" with alcohol or drugs. And don't neglect your sleep and good nutrition. Getting sick will only greatly add to your stress.)

Is God pleased with reminiscing, crying and laughing?

Romans 12:15
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

John 11 tells the story of Lazarus's death and resurrection. Notice that not only did Jesus not criticize the family and friends of Lazarus for weeping, He also wept (John 11:35). The Bible teaches us to sympathize and empathize with others who are grieving. After someone's death, it is important for loved ones and friends to spend time together and to reminisce and talk about their precious memories—memories that bring forth warm reflection, tears and laughter. When someone wants to talk about a deceased loved one, be an attentive listener. Don't change the subject.

How do our trials and sorrows prepare us to help others?

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Our trials benefit us if we learn compassion for others, and the comfort we receive should teach us how to give comfort. We especially mustn't overlook the needs of children or hide death from them. After a death, they often don't know what to think and say, what questions to ask or how to express their emotions. They need understanding, comfort and reassurance and need to be filled with love, security and hope. They need to be with family, sharing in the discussions, grieving and healing.

What are some ways I can help others during their time of sorrow?

1 John 3:16, 18 (Good News Translation)
This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us. We too, then, ought to give our lives for others!... My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.

Words of comfort have a powerful healing effect, but more than words is needed. Remember that the family of someone who has just died is faced with innumerable decisions and arrangements in addition to daily chores. It is frustrating and depressing to lose a loved one and hardly have time to think because you are frantically rushing from one responsibility to the next. So it can be helpful to offer specific help to families in mourning. And if you are in mourning, be willing to gratefully accept offers of help.

What spiritual lessons can we learn from life's losses and sorrows?

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 (New International Version)
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Everyone needs times to laugh and dance, but we also need times to weep and mourn (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Spiritual growth takes place more in difficult times than in easy times. When a loved one dies, it's a valuable time to reflect on your own mortality and your relationship with God. It has been said, "An open casket can be worth a thousand sermons." Some people avoid funerals and avoid visiting people in hospitals and nursing homes because these situations make them feel uncomfortable and unhappy. But to be a healer, you must go where people are hurting. If you do, your unselfishness will help you mature and grow.

What is the greatest source of understanding and comfort?

Psalm 147:3
[God] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Romans 15:4
For whatever things were written before [in the Bible] were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

God is that Source! Our Creator knows our hearts and always knows best how to help us. All the answers to life's questions are in His Bible. When we are grief-stricken, if we will talk to God and read His Word, we will experience great comfort, hope and healing. Prayer and Bible study are the two things we need to do every day of our lives.

Will suffering and sorrow come to an end?

Revelation 21:4
"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

Not only will families be reunited, but we'll all be in one big happy family—the family of God! And that family will live forever—with no more death, sorrow or crying!


Apply Now

As we learned in Ecclesiastes 7, when you think of someone else's death, it's an important time to think about your own life and inevitable death. As Ecclesiastes 9:12 says, "Man also does not know his time"—we don't know in advance when death will come. Therefore, it behooves us to get prepared and stay prepared (2 Peter 3:11).

How about starting right now by making a simple list of things you need to do in the very near future? If you haven't made a will and left instructions for your family, be sure to include those points. If you haven't told family and friends often enough that you love them, write that down. And if you need to get right with God, be sure to include that on your list. Set realistic deadlines to tackle the items on your list.

Next Lesson: See the Bible Study Guides series menu for your choice of future lessons to study.

Questions about this lesson? Feedback about this lesson?

Related Resources:

A Message of Hope Following the Death of a Loved One

Steps in Dealing with Grief

Words of Encouragement

Hope for Unbelieving Loved Ones

Why Does God Allow Suffering?