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  • Writer's picturePastor Anthony Forsyth

All Our Tears Will be Washed Away


It is not something people like to think of, less so talk about, until it confronts them. While it may be avoidable in conversation, and even in our thoughts, when it appears before us, the confrontation is unavoidable. Sometimes this encounter with death is announced ahead of time; sometimes it is sudden and unannounced. Sometimes we get to time to prepare our thoughts and our response, but sometimes we don’t. Losing a loved one to an unexpected accident or losing a loved one following an extended battle with cancer each create their own challenges, some shared and some distinct.

When we are confronted with death, the response we have is, broadly speaking, what is referred to as grief or mourning. It is as unique as the circumstances it is responding to. Our thoughts, our love, our wounds, our fears, our shattered plans, our regrets, our loss - our uniqueness combines with the uniqueness of the circumstances. Different hearts break in different ways; the same heart breaks in different ways at different times.

Christian “Death”

As Christians, we are not immune to this curse. Those around us will die as will we unless Christ comes beforehand. We too endure grief in this life. Yet death is a very different thing for a Christian. We grieve, as others do, but we do not grieve as others do.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:10 Paul says this: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”

The first thing that jumps out from that passage is that, for the Christian, Paul cannot use the word death. Eternal life is ours. Christ died so that we would not. When Paul speaks of death, he speaks of a defeated enemy. For us, when this life comes to an end, a better one begins. Death for us is very different for those outside of Christ. Remember that on the Damascus road Paul saw the risen Christ - the one that nothing, not even death, can ever separate us from. And so Paul will not use that word. They are gone; they will return; they are asleep.

His concern is that the believers in Thessalonica would not be ignorant about the distinctiveness of death for the Christian. He wanted them to be informed concerning the “sleepers”. This would not result in the removal of grief. The Scriptures say nothing to support ridiculous notions of a pain-free existence - of your best life now. It would, however, result in a different kind of grieving.

Why we can grieve differently

He continues in verse 11: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.”

The basis of a different kind of grief is that when Christ returns God will bring those who have “fallen asleep” with Christ when He returns. The following verses speak of Christ returning for His church and the procedure that unfolds - Christ descends, He cries out, the dead in Christ will receive their glorified bodies, then those who are still alive join them in the air, and then all believers, those who were dead and those who were alive, remain with their Lord forevermore.

We should also note the basis of qualifying for this great event: it is for those who have trusted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those of us who have placed our faith in Him will not be disappointed - when we die, we will be with HIm forever. Paul ends by telling them to “therefore encourage one another with these words”. We are to remind each other that upon death, a fellow believer will one day be resurrected and live with Christ forever. We are to be encouraged that we will see Him together with them when He returns.

Major doctrine made minor.

With disputes over the details, eschatology, or the study of end times, has been relegated to a minor doctrine these days. One of the sad consequences of this relegation has been that all mention of Christ’s return has been muffled and this vital encouragement so often becomes collateral damage.

First Corinthians 15 should be the Church’s close companion. Here Paul talks about the reality of the resurrection of Christ, that our resurrection is as assured as His was real, and that our resurrection is the removal of our bodies of sin and the receiving of glorious, sinless bodies - bodies no longer tainted by sin and that no longer age or rot. He tells us that it is then that this astounding saying shall come to be (v54-55):

“Death is swallowed up in victory!

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of sin

That “sting” he refers to is sin (v56). Sin is what gives death its power, its victory.

Death ends a life of sin. For those who haven’t trusted in Christ alone it leads to judgement for that sin; for those who have that judgement was already poured out upon Him in our place. And so death ends sin’s reign.

For Christians, sin has been conquered in Christ. It no longer has power over us. And so when we are confronted with the prospect of our own death, it marks the end of this life and its constant struggle with sin.

The irony of death and grieving for Christians is that death marks the end of sin. Our tears mark the end of all tears; our sorrow marks the end of all sorrows; our pain marks the end of all pain. Our brokenness marks the completion of our redemption. The struggle is over. Forever.

And so we weep, and we grieve at the loss that death brings but if we are informed, we rejoice at what ends with it and what it ushers in. In that holy union of lamenting and celebrating, confronting death presents a perfect picture of what daily life is so often like for those of us who crave the day of our redemption. The Christian life is a life of both lament and joy. We grieve over sin and its curse over all creation, and we rejoice in our salvation

Again, we grieve, as others do, but we do not grieve as others do.

Promoted to Heaven

Last Sunday at our church in Burbank we lost a dear sister in Christ. She was 93, yet her departure was unexpected until a week before. As one of our missionaries says, she was promoted to Heaven. It is a glorious truth. So we mourn her. We loved her, and we will miss her, but we rejoice at her “promotion”. Pain and joy for us today, but just the joy for her.

This week, as I have pondered these things, I was reminded of a song from my youth, penned by the broken, empathetic soul that is Julie Miller. Here is a lovely cover of it from Izzy Ray. If you are grieving, may it minister to your soul.

All My Tears, by Julie Miller

“When I go don't cry for me

In my father's arms I'll be

The wounds this world left on my soul

Will all be healed and I'll be whole

Sun and moon will be replaced

With the light of Jesus' face

And I will not be ashamed

For my saviour knows my name

It don't matter where you bury me

I'll be home and I'll be free

It don't matter where I lay

All my tears be washed away

Gold and silver blind the eye

Temporary riches lie

Come and eat from heaven's store

Come and drink and thirst no more

So weep not for me my friend

When my time below does end

For my life belongs to him

Who will raise the dead again

It don't matter where you bury me

I'll be home and I'll be free

It don't matter where I lay

All my tears be washed away.”

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