All people everywhere must deal with loss. It is part of the human experience, and it affects both Christians and people of the world. Just because a person has obeyed the gospel and been added to the Lord’s church does not mean that he or she will never experience another loss. In fact, in some ways, Christians feel losses that the world does not even recognize. However, the Christian is better equipped to deal with loss than anyone else.
For example, the pain and sorrow associated with the loss of a dear loved one is felt by all who have ever experienced death nearby. But, Christians possess insights which place the matter in a whole different light. To Christians Paul said, “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope,” (1 Thess. 4:13). It is significant that Paul did not forbid Christians from sorrowing. Any time treasured relationships of love and affection are severed, sorrow is a natural result. But Christians are not to sorrow in the same way as do those of the world. This is because of their hope in the resurrection. Paul goes on to explain, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him,” (4:14).
Christians understand that this earthly life is not all there is. Something lies beyond the door of death which gives hope to the Christian, and places this earthly life in a whole new light. In fact, that blessed hope changes the Christian’s perspective on the value and nature of physical life itself: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward,” (Rom. 8:18). Going through pain and loss is quite a different thing when we know that something better lies on the other side.
This is not to say that the Christian life will be easy – far from it. Christians understand the nature and reality of sin. They see how it destroys what might have been, and their heart is broken at things which people of the world do not even understand or perceive. Everything is seen through the prism of spiritual reality, while people of the world go blithely along their temporal way, never even realizing why this is such a big deal.
Because of what Christ has done, the Christian enjoys a different vantage point. And it is an elevated one. It provides the ability to see more clearly how things really are. And it allows the Christian to comprehend the relative unimportance of physical, temporal things. Jesus knew he had done it, when he said to his apostles, “These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” (Jn. 16:33).
Ignorance is bliss, and there is a certain false security in not knowing what the Christian knows. People of the world have no idea, while the Christian is sober, aware. Still, it is a profitable trade to be in Christ because of the hope that is there, and the child of God can sing the beautiful words composed by Johnson Oatman: I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining ev’ry day; Still praying as I onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground. Lord, lift me up, and let me stand By faith, on heaven’s tableland; A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground. Truly, the advantage during times of sorrow belongs to the person who is in Christ.
Another advantage to the Christian is the comfort and solace available from those “of like precious faith.” This too is something worldly people can never know. God’s children know Him “who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God,” (2 Cor. 1:4). The comfort Christians receive from God flows through them to benefit their brethren in need. That’s why Christians find such hope and comfort in the church. They are at home with the people of God, and there they are comforted. It is a comfort people of the world never know.
No, Christians are not immune from loss. They suffer greatly, and in ways unfathomable by many. But there is an advantage because of Christ. There is a unique hope now available because of what Christ has done. And there is the sweet fellowship of the body of Christ. These realities make all the difference in this world – and hereafter!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.