Grief and illness are two topics that hit close to home for me personally. There have been many times both in my childhood and as an adult where grief and illness have both visited me, my family, and my friends. My grandfather died in 2001 of cancer of the esophagus. He found out about his cancer two months before his death. In the last month of his life, he gave up and died shortly after that. There has been deep pain especially in my childhood that has required counseling and lots of help from godly saints over the years.
When my wife and I first met about twelve years ago now, we came from broken homes. As you’ll read in this issue when she shares her story, her father was murdered in a double-murder-suicide over twenty years ago, and her mother died of stage four cancer thirteen years ago. About one year before we met her mother died. I was going through my own issues with my parents (as well as other issues in my life), but Sarah was going through the pain of losing her mother and being the oldest child in the family and caring for her three younger siblings.
Grief and illness are the byproducts of living in a fallen world. Thankfully, however, grief is not the last word; Jesus is. The death and resurrection of Jesus has ushered in the Kingdom of God—both now in the present and at His return—in the fullest sense of the word. Theologians call this the “already and not yet” of the Kingdom of God. You and I live in a world where grief and illness reside. In Heaven, however, there will be no more tears, no more grief, and no more illness.
In the gospel we see Jesus—the one who bore our grief in our place for our sins (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus knows fully well what we are going through, as He is like us and unlike us. He is utterly sinless, and we are not. He bore the full weight of the fury of God the Father in our place so we could be forgiven and made new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:7). This is what is so amazing about Jesus—that we can approach Him boldly because He knows exactly what we are going through and yet did not sin (Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 4:14-16).
As you consider your own grief and heartache, take comfort in the High Priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus. Jesus’ role as our High Priest means that He sees, knows, and understands us through and through. Not only that, He also longs to comfort you in whatever you are going through today. While in the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus tells the disciples (and us) that He is going to prepare a place for them/us (John 14:3) and will send the Holy Spirit the Comforter (John 14:26). All that means as a Christian is that you have the full weight of the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—working to accomplish the ends for which you were saved. This is for the glory of God that will be spread among the nations by His grace.
You may not think of your grief in this way, but there is going to come a time in your life when the Lord is going to use this season of your grief in the lives of others. God is not distant from you. Please understand that God the Father sent forth God the Son—Jesus—to die the death you deserve so your grief would not last forever. Why? Because He loves you. Apart from the Lord Jesus, you would experience unending grief; but with Jesus, you have hope. Therefore, we as Christians do not grieve as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Wherever you are at today—whether you just had a friend or family member die, or some other situation is upon you—it is my prayer that you will be comforted, instructed, and challenged to minister to those facing grief and illness. We all know people (perhaps ourselves or others around us) that are going through challenging times. We all also need one another in our local churches.
With this issue of Theology for Life, we hope you are helped, but most importantly pointed to the Lord Jesus. It was He alone who bore all grief (yours and mine) so that our hope is now in the rock-solid promises of the Word of God and supremely in the treasure trove of finished and sufficient work of the Lord Jesus.
In Christ Alone,
Executive Editor, Theology for Life Magazine