THE Bible is clear: A husband is to “love his wife as he does himself.” A wife likewise should “have deep respect for her husband.” Both are to carry out their roles as “one flesh.” (Eph. 5:33; Gen. 2:23, 24) Over time, the attachment a couple have to each other gains strength, as does their love for each other. You might compare it to the roots of two trees growing side by side. The feelings of a happily married husband and wife knit and intertwine.
But what if the husband or the wife dies? Then that bond, unbreakable in life, is broken. The surviving widow or widower is often left with a blend of heartache, loneliness, and maybe even some anger or guilt. During her marriage of 58 years, Daniella knew many who lost their mates. * But after her husband died, she said: “I never understood this experience before. There is no way to comprehend it until you go through it.”
PAIN THAT SEEMS UNENDING
Some researchers hold that no stress is more severe than that resulting from the death of a beloved mate. Many bereaved ones agree with that. Millie’s husband died many years ago. In describing her life as a widow, she says, “I feel I am a cripple.” She was referring to her emotional state, caused by the loss of her mate of 25 years.
Susan used to feel that widows who for years mourned the loss of their husband expressed excessive grief. Then her husband of 38 years died. Over 20 years have passed, yet she says, “I think of him every day.” Tears often flow because she misses him so much.
The Bible confirms that the pain of losing a mate is both cruel and long lasting. When Sarah passed away, Abraham, her husband, “came in to bewail Sarah and to weep over her.” (Gen. 23:1, 2) Despite having faith in the resurrection, Abraham felt intense grief when his loved one died. (Heb. 11:17-19) After his dear wife Rachel died, Jacob did not soon forget her. He spoke tenderly about her to his sons.
What lesson should we learn from these Scriptural examples? Widows and widowers often feel the pain of loss for years. We should view their tears and times of sadness, not as a weakness, but as an understandable consequence of their great loss. They may need our empathy and support for a long time.
ONE DAY AT A TIME
The life of a widow or widower is not a simple return to being single. After years of marriage, a husband usually knows how to comfort his wife and lift her spirits when she feels blue or frustrated. If he is gone, her source of love and comfort is gone too. Similarly, over time a wife learns how to make her husband feel secure and happy. Her gentle touch and soothing words, the attention she gives to his interests and needs are like nothing else. If she dies, he may feel an emptiness in his life. Hence, some who are bereft of their mates look to the future with uncertainty and fear. What Bible principle can help them find security and peace?
“Never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own badness.” (Matt. 6:34) Those words of Jesus apply in particular to material needs in life, but they have helped many to endure the ordeal of losing a loved one. Some months after his wife died, a widower named Charles wrote: “The intensity of how much I miss Monique is still great, and at times it seems only to get worse. However, I realize that this is normal and that the passing of time will eventually reduce some of the pain.”
Yes, Charles had to endure “the passing of time.” How was he able to do it? He said, “With Jehovah’s help I took it one day at a time.” Charles was not overwhelmed by grief. His pain did not just disappear overnight, but neither did it consume him. If you have lost your mate, strive to deal with your loss one day at a time. You do not know what benefit or encouragement a new day can bring.
Death was not part of Jehovah’s original purpose. On the contrary, it is part of “the works of the Devil.” (1 John 3:8; Rom. 6:23) Satan uses death and the fear it may provoke to keep many people in slavery and without hope. (Heb. 2:14, 15) Satan is pleased when someone despairs of finding true happiness and satisfaction, even in God’s new world. Thus, the distress a grieving mate feels over the loss of his or her partner is the result of Adam’s sin and Satan’s machinations. (Rom. 5:12) Jehovah will completely remedy the damage caused by Satan, defeating his cruel weapon of death. The ones emancipated, or freed, from the fear that Satan cultivates include many who have lost a mate, as you may have.
As regards those resurrected to life here on earth, there obviously will be many changes in human relationships. Think of parents, grandparents, and other ancestors who will return to life and progress to perfection along with their children and grandchildren. The effects of old age will be eradicated. Might the younger generations have to learn to view their ancestors in a way far different from the way they view them today? And do we not believe that such changes will be part of the improvement in the human family?
There are countless questions that might be imagined about resurrected ones, such as about those who lost two or more mates. The Sadducees posed a question about a woman whose first husband died, then her second, and so on through a number of husbands. (Luke 20:27-33) What relationship will such ones have in the resurrection? We just do not know, and there is no point in speculating or being disturbed over those unknowns. At this point, we must trust in God. One thing is certain
THE RESURRECTION HOPE
—A SOURCE OF COMFORT
One of the clearest teachings of God’s Word is that dead loved ones will return to life. Bible accounts of past resurrections guarantee that “all those in the memorial tombs will hear [Jesus’] voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29) People alive at that time will find happiness as they meet those freed from death’s grip. On the other hand, we cannot even conceive of the happiness that the resurrected ones will feel.
As the dead come forth, the earth will be filled with joy as never before. Billions of once dead humans will again take their place among the living. (Mark 5:39-42; Rev. 20:13) Meditating on this future miracle should comfort all who have lost dear ones in death.
Will anyone have a valid reason to be sad when that grand return to life occurs? The Bible answers no. According to Isaiah 25:8, Jehovah “will actually swallow up death forever.” That includes the complete removal of the distressing effect of death, for the prophecy goes on to say: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.” If you feel sadness now because your partner in life has died, the resurrection will certainly give you reason for happiness.
No human fully understands all that God will accomplish in the new world. Jehovah says: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:9) Jesus’ promise about the coming resurrection gives us the opportunity to trust in Jehovah, as Abraham did. The key thing for each Christian now is to do what God asks of us and thus ‘be counted worthy of gaining that system of things’ along with those who will be resurrected.
A REASON FOR HOPE
Rather than be apprehensive, cultivate hope. From a human viewpoint, the future is gloomy. But Jehovah gives us the hope of something better. We cannot know exactly how Jehovah will satisfy all our needs and desires, yet we should not doubt that he will do so. The apostle Paul wrote: “Hope that is seen is not hope, for when a man sees a thing, does he hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, we keep on waiting for it with endurance.” (Rom. 8:24, 25) A strong hope in God’s promises will help you to endure. Through endurance, you will experience that grand future in which Jehovah will “give you the requests of your heart.” He will satisfy “the desire of every living thing.”
Near the time of Jesus’ death, his apostles became distraught. Jesus consoled them with these words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me.” He told them: “I shall not leave you bereaved. I am coming to you.” (John 14:1-4, 18, 27) His words would give his anointed followers throughout the centuries a basis for hope and endurance. Those who long to see their loved ones in the resurrection likewise have no reason to despair. Jehovah and his Son will not leave them bereaved. You can be certain of that!
^ par. 3 Names have been changed.