January 12, 2011

Future Personal Reunion

In the face of loss... sometimes I feel at a loss for words to bring the encouragement that I long to give.  I want to find the right words to lift them up and to lighten the burden.  I know that no words of mine will bring the correct consolation, but God's words are alive and powerful.  They are words of life, so I attempt to share those words.

One passage, in particular, that has brought comfort to me and I hope will bring comfort to others is found in the Old Testament in the book of II Samuel.  It is the account of King David and the loss of an infant child.  While the baby was still alive David is fasting and praying.  He seems so distraught that his servants are afraid to tell him that the baby has died.  When David sees them whispering, he figures it out and asks them.  Once they confirm this, here is what we read:
Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” 
(2 Samuel 12:20-23 ESV)
That last sentence has brought great comfort to many who have lost children over the years.  "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."  I love what the ESV Study Bible adds at this point.
Some interpreters understand David to be saying simply that he, like the child, will someday die.  But "shall go to him" seems to indicate the expectation of future personal reunion.
I completely believe that is what David had in mind, "... the expectation of future personal reunion."  It reminds me of another passage where Paul tells us that we are going to catch up to those who have gone before us.
For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 
(1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 ESV)
Jesus also refers to death as being asleep or at rest.  One day we will wake together in glory.  We will know and be known.  So, as Paul commands, I seek to encourage those who are hurting with these words and ideas.  We will be together again.  It is a future personal reunion.