“DEATH COMES UNEXPECTEDLY!” Have you ever seen the movie, Pollyanna? (1960) Pollyanna, a precocious, fun-loving young girl is sent to live with her aunt where she turns the town upside down. In one scene, they are sitting in church, and the pastor begins his sermon by loudly and dramatically proclaiming, “DEATH COMES UNEXPECTEDLY.” I can’t hear a comment about an “unexpected death” without hearing this line from the movie in my head. In the last month or so, Tim and I have learned of several unexpected deaths. My co-worker lost her husband of over 30 years; he just didn’t wake up one morning. A friend from church recently passed away, unexpectedly, in his apartment. These tragic situations have caused me to think a lot about death and the grief that it brings to those who lost the loved one. So I turned to God’s word to see what God says about unexpected death and the grief that ensues.
What does the Bible have to say about “unexpected death”?
1. No death is unexpected to God. He knows all, and He plans all. We are often shocked when someone passes away because our finite minds find it difficult to comprehend how God can work on a different time frame than we do. 2 Peter 3:8 attempts to explain to us that, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”
2. Death is inevitable for each one of us, and our life--however long God gives us-- is flying by. Job knew this truth when he said, “Now my days are swifter than a runner; they flee away...” In 1 Samuel 20:3, David writes, “There is hardly a step between me and death.”
3. Our lifetime is so minuscule in the timeline God operates. Psalms 78:39 says, “A wind that passes and does not return.” And James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” We need to realize that our loss of human life is not surprising to God, and the end of that earthly life was perfectly stationed on God’s timeline.
What does the Bible have to say about our death and how can we prepare for it?
No one wants to think about his own death, but if we truly have a heavenly perspective, we will welcome death if we are a believer because “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Paul writes in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Romans 14:8 instructs us, “for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.”
1. Realize that our time on earth is limited. I believe that death is almost always unexpected, so we should be living our life as if today is our last day. “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalms 90:12).
2. Prepare by living a life that daily honors and glorifies our Lord. Matthew 24:44 says, "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” We get so focused on living in the world that we forget this is not our final destination!
3. Anticipate with great joy the day you are in the presence of your Savior! Luke 12:35 tells us to, "Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.” This paints a “too excited to sleep” picture to me.
What does the Bible say about grief and sorrow when we do lose someone we loved dearly here on earth?
1. Know that God is with you and He sees your tears. He hasn’t forgotten you in your time of sorrow. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalms 34:18).
2. There is a day coming where death will be no more, “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
3. Your heart can heal. Psalms 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” We are reminded in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that we have a hope that unbelievers cannot comprehend. And that is solely due to the promises of our Savior that we can see our loved ones again. God’s Word tells us clearly where our loved ones are if they were believers. Our grief may be overwhelming, but remember, “…You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Sooner than you realize, you will be reunited with your loved one! What comfort His promises bring!
If you have lost a loved one, I hope you find comfort in our Savior today. Know that He hasn’t forgotten you! I’m living so close to the grieving process right now with my coworker, and it is a heart-breaking time, but Jesus is with you, and He truly can heal your heart. I also hope that our desire to prepare and live a life that glorifies God is renewed through the truths of God’s word. Our time is so short, let’s live every day for his glory!