Although there are certainly empty, or false words that offer no real comfort (Job 21:34), the gospel offers final and ultimate comfort, because it is both true and satisfying. If you read the verses preceding the above quote, you will see that the writer is revealing facts concerning the resurrection, when Jesus will return and all the dead will raised (I Thessalonians 4:13-17). Paul wrote these words so that we might not "be ignorant" and "sorrow as others who have no hope". Therefore, from this, we learn that not knowing the truth can be discouraging. We also learn that learning, knowing, and believing the truth will give comfort as it dispels our fears.Paul wrote:"... Therefore comfort one another with these words." (I Thessalonians 4:18)
In regards to the specific grief process, one can meditate too little or too much on the passing of a dear one. For example, if we do not meditate on it enough, we may not come to grips with the reality, leaving problems, issues, questions, and anxieties unresolved. So, we need to dwell on it enough that we at least come to accept the truth. However, we can also dwell on these facts so much that we become crippled by them. That is not good either. Christianity does not offer a magic pill that will cure your thoughts (BTW, neither does modern medicine). However, it gives you the knowledge and motivation, which are the tools and power needed to overcome your worries and grief.
Many great sermons have been preached just on this text alone. There is so much to be said, but let me offer these points:Paul wrote:Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)
- God wants us to always be able to rejoice. This a learned skill, and it requires some level of knowledge and faith, but you can get there by God's grace!
- "The Lord is at hand" means He is near. He is waiting and willing to help all who will reach out for Him:
Luke wrote:"And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;"[/i] (Acts 17:26-27)
- God does not want us to worry. He wants to cast our worries and griefs on Him through prayer, which means we ask Him to resolve what we cannot and then we forget about it, trusting Him to take care of it. He has promised to always do what is truly best for us, if we will just ask (Matthew 7:7-11). The answer may not be what we want, but it will be what is best (James 4:3).
- If we choose to dwell on good things, then we will receive peace "through Christ Jesus"; however, this means that we must have a relationship with Christ, before we can enjoy these blessings.... and so much more, but I'm pressed for time, and I do not want to overwhelm you with a lengthy answer. Much more could be said - just ask me.
- We must dwell, or meditate on these things. Therefore, it is not an immediate process, and it requires some effort and diligence on our part. However, it is not impossible, and He has promised to help us (Philippians 4:13; Hebrews 13:5-6).
How does one get "into Christ", so he can access these spiritual blessings (peace, salvation, purpose, comfort, etc.)?Paul wrote:Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (Ephesians 1:4)
In brief, we must each learn the gospel, believe it, confess Jesus as our Savior and Lord, confess our sins, repent of our sins, and be baptized to be saved and receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:37-38; Romans 10:8-10, 17). From that point forward, we must continue to live for Christ, and as we do, our character will be transformed to be more like His, and we will gain blessings untold (II Peter 1:10-11, see also verses 3-9 for more context). We have more information on actually becoming a Christian here:Paul wrote:For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27)
Preparing for the next life is the most important thing we can do. Now more than ever, I am sure that you are impressed with the inevitability of death, a fate which we must all face. Christianity offers the only true hope to face it with confidence, while preparing for a life to come and making the most of the life that is now. Are you read to face death yourself? If not, I would encourage you not to delay, because none of us have promise of tomorrow. I realize this is scary, but it is true (James 4:13-15).
The Scriptures offer many more valuable insights which will provide you the strength you need, but because of time constraints, this is the best I can do for now. I pray this helps you some now.
Hopefully, we will talk again soon. I look forward to hearing from you again very soon!
May God help us to have a sincere love of truth above all else.
True, the Bible tells us what we must do to be saved (Mark 16:15-16; etc - also see article mentioned in previous email), and it tells us the standard by which we will be judged:
Therefore, we expect the Bible, specifically the New Testament, to be used as the basis of judgment for us. Consequently, we can have a sure hope if one follows the conditions as outlined in the New Testament. However, the final judgment is reserved for Jesus, and we are forbidden from offering final judgments, because that is not our place:John wrote:"He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day." ( John 12:48)
To further complicate things, there are a handful of recorded cases where Jesus directly forgave sins, where the recipient had not conformed to the specific terms of either covenant, Old or New (Luke 22:39-43; Matthew 9:1-6; Luke 7:36-50). Therefore, we learn that Jesus, being both the Lawgiver and Judge, has the right and prerogative to forgive sins upon whatever criteria He wants. The revealed terms given in the New Testament constitute a set of conditions upon which salvation may be obtained by promise; however, Jesus has the power and has demonstrated the possibility of granting salvation outside of the promised terms.James wrote:"Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?" (James 4:11-12)
Now this is a very sharp point, and you must be extremely careful here: God has not revealed those additional terms, and we cannot say if they are even still available. Admittedly, the demonstration of true faith does seem to be a common theme in all the exceptions, which we do know is absolutely required (Hebrews 11:4). However, you and I cannot operate on those unrevealed terms, since we do not know them. Moreover, we cannot even operate upon them by faith, because faith requires knowledge of God's message, which is simply not revealed in these cases (Romans 10:17)! Therefore, you and I can know that we will not be found pleasing, if we guess and try to operate on those unrevealed terms, because such effort will be outside faith, which we know is a requirement! Therefore, you and I must look to the frequent and clear instructions for obtaining salvation for ourselves.
I only mention these exceptions to offer some real hope for your mother - not for us. Do you see my dilemma? These texts may offer hope for your mother, but you and I cannot use them as shortcuts to avoid obeying God's clear instruction to the living. I want you to not worry about your mother, but you should be concerned about your eternal welfare.
In regards to your mother, ultimately you are correct. We will not know the final result until the very end.
Please allow me to offer one more passage that is important consider here:
Jesus' message requires some sacrifice on our part. I have known teenagers who were kicked out of their homes for becoming a Christian. It is sad to see such young believers face such terrible persecution at such a young age, but the eternal reward they seek far outweighs the temporal satisfaction that they cannot keep (II Corinthians 4:16-18). I pray that becoming a Christian does not put you in opposition to the memory of your mother, but if it does, I pray you will have the strength to choose what is perfect and eternal.Luke wrote:"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26-27)
Put another way, "Did your mother love you?" I am assuming she did love you very much. Therefore, would she want you to spend eternity in heaven with God, Jesus, the angels and every good person to ever live? Or, would she want you to suffer eternally in hell with the Devil, his angels, and every wicked, selfish person that every lived? If your mother could speak to you now, knowing what she knows now, how would she want you to live? ... It would be an unfulfilling strategy to choose hell, because you believed her to reside there. Then, you both would be eternally miserable, and being together would not even remotely outweigh the torment. Plus, what if she ended up going to heaven, despite your speculation and strategy? As I said already: Be very careful here, and make no mistake. You may be choosing your eternal destiny right here and now. ... If you think I may be over-reacting, please allow me to say that I have seen too many people deny what they truly believed, because they did not want to jeopardize their relationship with their parents.
Also, keep in mind nobody goes to heaven or hell by accident. God is elaborately patient, providing an abundance of "second chances" in this life. He does not want anybody to be lost (II Peter 3:9). Whoever ends up in hell will only be there because they deliberately ignored God's multiple chances to receive forgiveness and be saved ( Romans 2:1-5).
If you believe your mother was a good woman, or if you are unsure, then pray about it, "casting your cares upon Him, because He cares for you" , and then leave it up to Him to resolve (I Peter 5:7). You can trust Him to do what is right.
I am sorry that I cannot give you a definite answer, but I can point you to One whom does know, whom does control the outcome now, and whom you can trust to the right thing!Moses wrote:"Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25)
Remember, among other things, we must have faith to be found pleasing to Him (Hebrews 11:4), and this is most likely your first great challenge of your faith right now!
Also, I would encourage you to read all these verses in your own Bible and meditate on them. It is through the knowledge gained by studying that you will be able to strengthen your faith and overcome (II Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17)!
I pray this helps. May God help us to love Him supremely.