One of the many books on grieving that have been sent to us is a slim little volume Good Grief by Granger Westberg. It is an excellent, brief summary of the various stages of grief that most of us go through, with particular emphasis upon the role of faith in grieving. He also makes the valuable point that we often grieve for a variety of reasons, not just the death of a loved one. The loss of a job, divorce, or simply becoming “empty nesters” can all be causes of our grief, whether we acknowledge it as such or not.
He opens and closes the book explaining how 1 Thess. 4:13 is often misread.1 “Grieve not!” is what many Christians exhort to those in grief, citing this passage and saying those whose hope is in the resurrection should not grieve! But as Westberg points out, that is not the whole of the verse and where you put the comma, so to speak, makes all the difference.
Grieve — not as those who have no hope.
To be truthful, I am not exactly sure of which translation, or his own, that he may be using, but his point is valid and vital. The NRSV reads in full
1 Thess 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.
The promise and hope of the resurrection doesn’t mean that we won’t or shouldn’t grieve, but it does mean that in our grieving we may also find comfort in the knowledge that “we will be with the Lord forever.” As Westberg concludes,
So we say, “Grieve—not as those who have no hope,” but please, when you have something worth grieving about, go ahead and grieve.”
- This is actually a very troublesome passage for other reasons (read “rapture”), but I will not bother with that in this post. ✐