“I am going to him who sent me…[and] you are filled with grief.” John 16:5-6
There is an aversion to speaking plainly about death even among Christians. I have some sympathy for such an attitude but my understanding has limits. I recall conducting one committal service where, when we were finished, the parents picked the spray of flowers up off the casket of their son and I walked with them to a tiny grave close by where they gently laid the spray of flowers down on the grave of their baby son. I had buried the little fellow a couple of years earlier. In my 45 years of ministry that had to be one of the most difficult moments.
Jesus had a view of death that astounds most people. In the context of our verse for today He has already chastened them by saying in John 14:28, “If you loved me you would be glad that I am going to the Father.” (NIV). Now again, in the words of our verse for the day, Jesus again questions them about the grief they feel at the thought He was leaving them to go to heaven and the Father.
Jesus did not wish to make the disciples sorrowful at His return to heaven, rather He wished them to be glad for Him. He was eagerly looking forward to heaven and desired to get there. We need to reflect on this idea for just a moment.
For the believer in Jesus, heaven is our home. We should have no hesitation in wishing to be there and away from this world of suffering and sorrow. I do not for a moment think people should be suicidal. In fact when someone is under great stress I will seek to help them determine if they are a risk to themselves. I urge those in especially difficult circumstances to seek psychological counsel to make sure they are stable emotionally.
However, in the heart of every child of God there is planted a sense of being home sick, of longing for a world where God is honoured by all, and where we are free from all consequences of sin and from its very presence. Jesus longed to be home. The great apostle Paul also expressed this longing for his eternal home when he said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far…” Philippians 1:24. (NIV)
If you speak privately to mature Christians they will tell you of this longing in their hearts to be at home with Jesus. They have the tension of wanting to be here in this life with their loved ones, yet there is that powerful sense of wanting the land that is fairer than day. Or, if you speak to a Christian who has much suffering in this life, they will tell you plainly that they look for the world to come passionately. Suffering loosens our grip on the temporal and makes us long for the eternal. We become very willing to let go of the one in order to take hold of the other.
If you have had to give up a loved one into the care of Jesus hear the words of Jesus Himself and imagine your loved one in heaven saying the words to you. “If you loved me you would be glad I go to the Father.” The hurt and sorrow we feel when we release a loved one to death is natural when it is sorrow for ourselves. We cannot feel sorrow for someone who has gone into Jesus presence. That simply does not make sense.
If your sorrow today is over someone who has gone ahead then seek to comfort yourself with the joys they now experience in heaven. Thank God for the hope of heaven for all who truly believe in Jesus and wish His presence forever.