Death is bitter sweet for the Christian. I was at a memorial service last Friday. Two things struck me.
The first was that as we looked back on the life of the woman we were there to remember we didn't have to pretend. Folk could share a genuine grief about the real friend they had lost. We didn't have to sanitise who she was and what she experienced. We could give thanks for her, warts and all. Sometimes it's people's warts, the things that used to wind you up about them, that also made them most endearing!
I've taken so many funerals where the eulogy during the service has painted a picture of someone who everyone loved and loved everyone. But only to find out afterwards, over a beer at the wake, that half the family weren't there because they'd fallen out years ago and most people thought that he was a grumpy old so and so!
Genuine grief, that is honest about the person we've lost, is made possible when we aren't simply looking into her past to find something to celebrate in our sadness. But we also have hope for her future and ours.
As Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
The second thing that I noticed last Friday was joy in the singing and hope in the conversations. Because she had known Jesus, so we were confident that she had gone to be with him. Not just that her suffering, physical, emotional and physiological was over. But also that she was face to face with her Saviour. The one who loved her with a love that meant he gave his life so that she could enjoy forever with him.
Better still, just as He had risen from the dead, so would she. To enjoy eternity in a perfectly restored creation in the presence of her loving God. And this isn't a hope based on fantasy. It is based on the fact that Jesus died and rose again, so all those who believe in Him will rise again to eternal life when he returns to judge.
That's why grave yards used to be called God's acre. His people had been planted there, waiting for him to come and take them home.
When you have a future like that can you rejoice in the past with honesty.