The night of the visitation before my father’s funeral, there were three things I dreaded hearing, though I knew I would hear them over and over for three hours: “I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s passing.” “I’m so sad for your loss.” “You have my condolences (i.e., I’m grieving along with you).” Those things might be appropriate when a complete unbeliever has died. But when a Christian passes, those words may not actually help a grieving family, and they might make their grief worse.
There’s a better way. Remember what Jesus said when he came to visit Mary and Martha as they were grieving for their brother, Lazarus. He didn’t say how sad or sorry he was or offer condolences. He celebrated Lazarus’ place in God’s family and spoke of him as still alive (which in fact he was). He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25,26). When the body of a Christian dies, the soul is carried to heaven and keeps on living with God in heaven. Seriously! Christians never die!
Here’s what I longed to hear that long night of visitation: “We celebrate your dad’s homecoming with you.” “We rejoice with you that he finished his race well.” “How reassuring it must feel to know that your dad is safe with Jesus now and forever.”