Experiencing the wrenching pain of child loss has helped me to recognize more fully that most grieving people have an intense need for hope, for assurance that they will someday be reunited with their loved ones.
Assurance and hope based on facts leads to peace and can take the edge off grief when it threatens to escalate to despair. False hope, however, which is a counterfeit assurance based on error, can make one feel better, but only temporarily.
In the still small hours of a sleepless night, one needs something more substantial than “I hope to see him again.” By now, if you have read this far, it is apparent that I am quite certain of seeing Hans again. Heaven is a real place. My son is there. I am sure of this as a person can be.
I have observed people who do not believe in an afterlife; the anger, guilt and despair they often carry on top of their grief can be shattering. Likewise, the mourner that senses there must be something more to our brief existence on the earth, but has no concrete ideas about it, is vulnerable to being lost in a quagmire of error that may bring temporary relief, but no true and lasting peace.
There are various pleasant sounding popular notions about death and dying to choose from that seemingly help make the pain more bearable. Here are a few I have run into:
Everybody goes to Heaven, no questions asked. This does not bring peace because it violates one’s innate sense of justice. Under this system, the murderer and the victim both go to Heaven. No sin occurred, no penalty is paid. Mercy is granted to all because all are essentially good somewhere deep inside. In addition to straying far from the facts, this arrangement stands justice on its head, satisfying no one and, I believe, deep down, most people that hold this view know it.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable;
there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10-12)
It is appointed unto men once to die,
but after this the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment:
but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46
My child is not gone. He is right here with me, I just can’t see him. Comforting as this thought is, I believe most parents, if they are honest, suspect it is not true. It is a little lie we tell ourselves when the longing for our child becomes overwhelming. We confuse past memories with present desire, combining them within our imagination in a desperate attempt to make it so. Comforting? Maybe for a time. But it is a fragile self-deception that has the potential of compounding our pain. It is tempting to think, since God is omnipresent, and Hans is with Him, that maybe Hans is omnipresent, too-that my son is with me wherever I go. But, this is a not an idea at all supported by scripture. God’s word says that when Jesus returns,
“them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”
God cannot bring with Him someone who is already here. No, Hans is gone-gone to Heaven to be with the Lord. He is done with this old groaning world.
There is no Heaven, there is only energy, and when I leave this planet I will join all the other energies out there, one of which is my child, and we will co-exist forever in a state of blissful harmony. This is wishful thinking without any basis in fact. One might be able to make this sound almost scientific, but trying to prove this nonsense would be an impossibility. Assurance? Hardly. How much better is sure hope from God’s word:
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you,
That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father
which is in heaven. Matthew 18:10
This is all there is. There is no afterlife. I have nothing to look forward to except death which will finally bring an end to my pain. No, no hope here. But look what is in store for those who believe:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
I understand how easy it is to grasp at anything plausible that offers assurance that we will see our children again, that they are not really gone, or that it does not even matter. But plausible is not good enough. I want the Truth. I want reality. I want what actually is. Anything else will not help me and certainly will not do Hans any good. I have the Truth. I do not need fairy tales.
So, how can I be so confident that I will see my son again?
Is it because he was “a good boy”; was “never in any trouble”; “was no worse than anyone else”?
Is it because his family goes to church every Sunday and Hans never missed a meeting unless he was sick?
Is it because his parents are Christians?
No, no and no.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done,
but according to his mercy he saved us (Titus 3:5)
There is only one assurance I can claim concerning where Hans is today. That assurance lies in the person and work of Jesus Christ and in the promises He has given us in His Word:
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life:
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
Believest thou this? (John 11:25-26)
So here it is in a nutshell:
Hans, like all of us, like me, and like you if you are honest, was a sinner by nature, by birth, by choice and by practice. He knew this.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
Hans knew he could not get rid of this sin problem by himself. He knew he needed a Redeemer and Savior, Someone to take his penalty for sin and to satisfy God the Father’s holy justice. No one gets away with anything – Hans knew this, too.
For the wages of sin is death;
but the gift of God is eternal life through
Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Jesus is God the Son which makes Him the only qualified Person to act as our substitute and to take the punishment we deserve. There is one way into God’s Heaven. Jesus is it. Hans knew this as well.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus; (1 Timothy 2:5)
Neither is there salvation in any other:
for there is none other name under heaven given among men,
whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
So far, so good. But what did Hans do with all this?
He believed it. That’s it.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,
and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,
thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek:
for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
That is why I am so sure I will see Hans again. Because I believe what Hans believed.
How about you?
What keeps you from believing, too?
What Hans Believed
The Gift Offered
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
The Gift Received
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12).
The Gift Fulfilled
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).