1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope."
The point of this verse is that Christians who are not ignorant do not sorrow like those who have no hope. The problem is, too many Christians these days seem to be ignorant. Don't misunderstand - the word "ignorant" is not intended to be an insult. It means "not informed." I believe many to be misinformed - and so these are ignorant people. They may strongly believe something that is, in fact, in error. The truth really matters. And to get back to what I'm writing about, the truth about death really matters.
I've seen people come out with some strange, untruthful, misinformed (yes, ignorant) things about those who die. Rarely do I see people speak the truth about death and dying. Usually, I'm pretty blunt. I don't often know how to correct people as well as I'd like. So, here, rather than point out erroneous beliefs, I think I'll try a softer approach and deal with just the truth. That can be harsh enough. But in doing this, I'll ask my readers to put aside all of their preconceived ideas about death and dying while they consider the truth here.
First off, there's a difference between those who sorrow do so according to the truth, or according to ignorance of the truth. It's extremely important to know the truth. This points us to the teachings of the Bible. Where else can we go to get the truth about the other side of the grave? I mean really, now. Jesus, Himself, has risen from the dead - three days after dying. Some say they've come back a few minutes - up to an hour or so. But, outside of Jesus, we haven't heard from anyone - not even Lazarus spoke on record of his experience. And it was Jesus who raised Lazarus anyway. We can trust the Bible on this one. It's inerrant, inspired, and infallible. So, what Jesus says - and taught His disciples to write in the Bible - is true. Those who know it really do know the truth. And what they know makes their grief so much different than the world's ways of grieving the lost.
Second, the truth is that those who die in Christ will be with Christ. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). This applies to all who are truly in Christ. All who hope to go to heaven when they die hope for this. I believe most people hope for this. "He's (she's) in a better place" is often said of those who suffered before dying or of those who died unexpectedly. If we really do believe this, then the sting of death is not only removed for the saved who die, but for the saved who remain behind as well!
Third, when a Christian friend or loved one passes, he/she is with the Lord. Death can break no relationships there (See Revelation 21:4). This also removes the sting of death. It will never be repeated for those who die "in Christ." Unfortunately, when a non-believer passes (one who is not "in Christ"), there will be a "second death." (But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." Revelation 21:8) Therefore, the grief for the passing of the unbelievers is a lasting grief, for their death is not the same as the believer's death. Being "in Christ" makes all the difference.
Now, there's a real thing going on in us, however, when someone we love dies. When we Christians grieve another's passing, it seems like so much time must pass without them. That's our focus. It's frightfully short-sighted. We find ourselves spending a day, week, month, year, or decades without any contact with our best friends, and the hope of future contact sustains us until the next meeting. But it's different when that hope of future contact is removed by death. If we believe the truth, however, that won't be a problem when we also plan to be more alive than dead when our time comes. Why, then, do believers grieve so at the passing of their believing friends or loved ones? Could it be that we struggle to believe in our hearts (and not in our heads only) in that blessed hope of another meeting? Could it be that hope of a future contact isn't there to sustain us until it becomes reality? This breaks my heart to think that so many Christians don't really believe this. We think it when convenient, but we don't let our hearts rest from grief; we don't find near the solace we ought.
And it shines a bright light on the fact that I sometimes don't truly believe what I preach, what I read in the Bible, or even what I want to believe about things based on all I've learned. I still have a fallen hope, and that makes me grieve. I'm grieving a fallen hope when I need a living hope! Dear Christian brothers and sisters, will you not start saying, "Good bye for a while; until we meet again!" when you say your "goodbyes" to your other brothers and sisters? Do not mourn their passing - for in doing, you mourn your fallen hope. It is not the truth. The truth is certainly better than that!