I have a bereavement counselor in my home.
My wife works in that capacity for a hospice company.
That means that I probably have more conversations about death and dying than the average person.
The nature of hospice brings a certain confrontation with the likelihood and imminence of death which makes it not uncommon for the grieving process to start before the physical loss has occurred.
This is called anticipatory grief.
Chapter 12 of the book of Hebrews begins with the topic of endurance presented with the picture of a runner during a race. We are asked to endure in this life and press on. Our example, as it is so often, comes in the person of Jesus. I bring up anticipatory grief as an introduction because it is the reverse of the example that we are given in Jesus. We see the reality of pain and death and are grieved, but in Jesus, we have the one “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross“. The strength that Jesus found to drink from the cup that his father had set before him, was found in the anticipatory joy of reconciling the world to its creator.
I’m probably about four months early (or eight months late) with this post. It does have a very advent flavor to it, but part of the strength that we are offered to endure in this time, is to live with an “advent” mindset in our daily lives.
We look forward to the same day that Jesus could see when he found himself in the shadow of the cross. In anticipating the reconciliation of all reality to God, Jesus could find joy. We are part of that reality that is being reconciled to him, so we have been given a share of that joy to look toward ourselves.
The fact that we have only lived in the midst of a broken creation can make it more difficult to fully grasp what it is that is waiting for us, but we are given hints of that world to come in the beauty that remains and in kindness and in love.
The encouragement that we are given in Philippians 4:8 is to think of the things that are true, that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, those things that are excellent and worthy of praise. These are the things that give us a glimpse into what has been prepared for us. The things that give us the first foretaste of a life and world that has been reconciled completely to a Holy God.
On a more personal note, I have friends who seem likely to be moving out of state soon, and with that, I find myself with a touch of anticipatory grief. It helps to remind myself that they are also my brother and sister in Christ Jesus, which makes them a part of that new creation that will one day be fully reconciled to God. In that, there is joy, and while I may find myself experiencing grief in anticipation of their leaving, I can trust that the joy to come will far outweigh it.
” For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” [Romans 8:18]