Recently, my family, those around me and I have been surrounded by the presence of death. Either through family members, friends or other conversations. It is difficult because the typical contemporary Christian understanding of death is to try to turn a Christian’s death into a joyful occasion – perhaps this is because of the theology that deemed the “kingdom” as some other”ness” and post earthly experience. But I deeply struggle to find this comforting or biblical.
From what I have read and experienced, death should be hard. Our lord Jesus wept at the death of his friend. Mourning is undervalued in our age and culture maybe because we belittle death. Yes, as a Christian there is something beyond rotting in the ground, but the hard reality is that person, that life, is no longer there. The joys of stupid jokes from that person are not there, the experiences of watching friends wince at that person’s awkward moments are not there, the late night conversations are not there, the feelings of skin against yours as you embrace your friend are not there. The person is not there; a portion of one’s community is gone. Death, even if merely physical and temporary for the Christian, is the opposite of what God ultimately desires; thus, it should causes us pain, draw tears from our eyes and simply feel wrong.
It perhaps is in this feeling of disarray, frustration and loss that I find I must turn to a God who shares in my mourning and has the power to bring redemption, even to death. My joy then is not so much in the fact that my Christian loved ones are instantly in heaven – a theologically complex issue- , or that I will see them again – though this is very true and an element of my joy – but that my God is bigger than death.