Christian Bereavement

Christian Bereavement

John W. Bramhall

Bereavement is something that we all experience sooner or later in this life. In this article by Mr. John Bramhall of Charlotte, N.C., we are led to many comforting thoughts from the Word of God on this sobering theme. We are confident that these thoughts will prove helpful and instructive to all our readers.

Bereavement of loved ones comes to all families upon the earth, for no one is immune to death. It visits the home of the rich and the poor alike, for it is no respecter of persons. Yet the Christian circle is always in a position of positive triumph in the presence of death, for the Lord has changed everything for the believer. Let us turn to Scripture examples to find comfort in bereavement, noting how saints in the past faced this experience.

Jacob’s Bereavement (Gen. 35:16-20)

Rachel died in giving birth to her second son. It was a great loss to Jacob, for she was his dearly loved wife. On her departure she named the child “Benoni,” meaning “the son of my sorrow.” Had Jacob accepted this name it would have reminded him for the rest of his life of the tragedy of his wife’s death. This would have been very difficult for him to bear as a devoted husband. Instead, Jacob named him “Benjamin,” which means “the son of my right hand,” having found comfort and consolation in the precious legacy the Lord had given him by Rachel. What an example!

David’s Bereavement (2 Sam. 12:15-23)

The nameless child of Bathsheba was taken in death by God’s decree on the father because of his sin. David earnestly prayed that the child might live and in his grief he prostrated himself on the ground before Jehovah. He refused all offers of food and encouragement, for his anguish was great. He felt the personal guilt of bringing this judgment upon the child. On the seventh day the child died and David’s servants feared to tell the anguished father the truth. Nevertheless, he discerned by their actions what had happened. How did he react? He arose from the earth, washed himself, changed his raiment and entered into the house of the Lord. Yes, there was deep grief and God knew it, but in his nearness to God, David triumphed over his sorrow and worshipped. He comforted his heart with the thought, “I shall go to the child, but he shall not return unto me.” The separation, he knew, was only temporary.

The Shunamite’s Bereavement (2 Kings 4:17-37)

God gave the Shunamite woman a son because of her great kindness shown to Elisha the prophet. The parents joyfully watched the boy grow to youth; then one day he was taken ill, carried to his mother and laid in her lap until noon, and then died. What a terrible blow to his mother’s heart! The child had been given to her in such sacred circumstances that it must have seemed unbelievable that he was dead. Hastening to the prophet and leaving her boy lying on the bed, she met the servant of Elisha coming toward her. He enquired of her welfare, of her husband and of her child. She answered, “It is well.” Yet her anguish was so great that the prophet perceived it as she held him by the feet (v. 27) and expressed her perplexity at such a tragic blow to her heart. The story ends with the miracle of the dead child being brought back to life (vv. 28-37), but the lesson for us to emphasize is her remarkable answer to Gehazi, Elisha’s servant. When questioned regarding her welfare and that of the child’s, she replied. “It is well.” What an example of faith!

Job’s Bereavement (Job 1:13-22) What a series of losses Job experienced! First, all of his possessions were taken away. Next, all of his sons and daughters were killed. What did Job do? “He arose, and shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped!” What did Job say? “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah.” How quickly some would have blamed God for the tragedy! But Job was a man in touch with God and uttered tremendously sublime words in the presence of terrible tragedies. Did God honor Job for his submission and trust? Read Job 42:12-17 to know his blessing.

Mary’s Bereavement (John 19:35)

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother.” Could any mother have deeper sorrow than Mary’s when the Lord Jesus hung upon that cross of shame? Was not our blessed Lord then her “Benoni,” that is, “the Son of my sorrow?” Had not the godly Simeon foretold, “A sword shall pierce through thine own soul also” (Luke 2:35)? Yet, the angel Gabriel had said to Mary, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the highest; and the Lord shall give Him the throne of His father David; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

In her grief Mary could realize that the Lord was “Benjamin” to God, that is, “the Son of His right hand” (read Psalm 110). Mary was the one woman in all the world who had more joy out of her Son and at the same time more sorrow. Her case was definitely unique. Yet how sanctified was her grief as we think of the blessing that the unparalleled sorrows of the Lord have brought to multitudes of people. The pain of Mary’s heart has been exceeded by the high honor that God has given to her Son. After all, God makes no mistakes, and when the sorrow of bereavement comes this fact can keep the heart in perfect peace. Mary bore her sorrow well and without doubt, for had not the angel Gabriel told her, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28)? Her deep sorrow was soon turned to utmost joy, and so shall ours!

Mary and Martha’s Bereavement (John 11:1-44)

What a narrative of divine comfort and divine power is this story of Lazarus and his death! It is worthy of constant meditation, for the greatest Person within the story is the Lord Jesus Himself. Note the references to His Person: “Jesus heard” (v. 4); “Jesus loved” (v. 5); “Jesus answered” (v. 9); “Jesus spoke” (v. 13); and “Jesus came” (v. 17). But the greatest of all are the words, “Jesus wept” (v. 35). This last is the shortest verse in the English Bible, but it is of greatest comfort to a multitude of sorrowing saints. He is still the same sympathetic Lord in our bereavement today, even though He is now in glory above. It has been well said: “There’s not a sorrow rends the heart, but what the Man of Sorrows has a part.” On the throne of His Father, He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” according to Hebrews 4:15. In the case of Lazarus, His word of power brought him back from the dead, returning him to the loving embrace of Lazarus’ sorrowing sisters. What a miracle of divine power! Can He do the same for us?

Beloved, the Lord will indeed do the same for us. Very soon He will bring from among the dead all of our loved ones who have died and gone to be with Him. Then shall we be caught up together into a scene where there is no parting, no tears and no death. Hallelujah, and again hallelujah! “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18).

The Apostle Paul wrote: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25). To this we say “Hallelujah!” “And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). And to this we again say, “Hallelujah!” Surely, to the bereaved heart of the Christian the Lord has given a note of eternal triumph so that “we sorrow not, even as others who have no hope.” May we all triumph to His glory in our times of bereavement.

Jesus is coming! — sing the glad word!
Coming for those He redeemed by His blood,
Coming to reign as the glorified Lord!
Jesus is coming again!

Jesus is coming! the dead shall arise,
Loved ones shall meet in a joyful surprise,
Caught up together to Him in the skies:
Jesus is coming again.

Jesus is coming, is coming again!
Jesus is coming again!
Shout the glad tidings o’er mountain and plain!
Jesus is coming again!