Comfort One Another

“Comfort one another with these words.”          1 Thessalonians 4:18

The news is sad and tragic no matter how one receives it. Years ago, it was through a letter. Today, it’s a phone call. Someone has died. The tears flow. Family and friends are notified. A call and appointments are made at the funeral home. The world turns upside down. Suddenly all that you were going to do, doesn’t really matter. I have worn those shoes more times than I’d like to remember.

Our verse comes from that setting. Someone has died. It was more than just a death, it was one of the brethren. A believer has died. There is one less light in the world, because a Christian has died. Someone has finished their journey and their reward with the Savior awaits.

As Paul, writes the young Thessalonian church about the death of one of their own, a believer, he reminds them to “comfort one another with these words.” I really like this verse. It has come to mean a lot to me personally. We search for ways to dry the tears of others. We send flowers. Some give wind chimes. A sympathy card is mailed. Those are all helpful. But nothing beats, “these words.

Here’s why “these words” help:

First, in a series of bold statements, Paul tells the brethren what will happen. The righteous are not “gone.” They are not “forgotten.” They will be raised (14). Jesus is coming (16). The righteous will be with the Lord forever (17). Be informed, is how this section begins. There are so many wild ideas about death and what happens afterwards. Stick with Scriptures. Stick with absolutes. These words also bring hope. And, hope is one of the greatest ways to try tears. Death isn’t the end and Satan doesn’t get the final word. The resurrected Christ proves that.

Second, sometimes in sorrow, we forget. The emotion of grief gets the best of us. Some throw out everything they know because of the sorrow they feel. “These words,” were to be shared with others. Remind them. Hope is an anchor, Hebrews tells us. It holds us. It keeps us from drifting into the rocks of despair and doubt.

Third, there is the promise of being with the departed righteous again. Time and again, I’m asked, ‘Will we know each other in Heaven?’ Yes. Look at this context. Paul says, ‘we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds.’ We are those who are still alive when Jesus comes. The ‘them’ are the righteous Thessalonians who have fallen asleep or died. Now, how will we know if we are with them if we don’t know who they are? There is implied the thought that we will recognize them. We will know them. The alternative is to spend eternity with a bunch of strangers. That doesn’t sound very comforting.

These words in Thessalonians are not to be God’s complete discourse on death and the end of times. The apostle is writing for a specific purpose and directing this to a specific target group, the righteous Thessalonians who have died. There are two types of grief found in verse thirteen. A grief without hope and a grief with hope. Without hope comes from a life without Christ. Oh, so many want to ignore God and do as they please, but when they died, their family wants them in Heaven. The other grief is according to hope. These are the righteous. They have walked and loved the Lord all of their lives.

It is sad when a Christian dies. But the sadness is temporary. It’s never good-bye, but only ‘see you later on.’ That’s the hope we have in Christ. So many dear friends and Christians, believers, that I know have passed through that doorway of death to the other side. They await in God’s other room. Won’t it be wonderful to see them once again. My mother has been on the other side for 29 years. I can just hear her saying, “What took you so long getting here?”

These words. Know them. Believe them. Use them. Share them. That’s the way the apostle intended.