This morning, as mart of my current study in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians I read these words:
“I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (1:23)
Alec Motyer wrote:
“He [Paul] declares hat death to the Christian is (literally) ‘by far the best’. Suppose we had been with Paul in Rome just then, and had seen him as he was, a man of of immense vigour of mind and body, with gigantic gifts, a man irreplaceable in the church. How keenly we should have felt the loss were he to be executed! What an untimely death! — and all the other things we hear said when a notable Christian dies unexpectedly. But what is the reality for the person concerned, for Paul? He is not he loser; he is not ‘poor Paul’. For him it is better by far than anything else that could have happened or could be imagined. Indeed, even while the church mourned his loss, he would possess unimaginable riches. For him, as for us at our death too, it is far better.
This is not, of course, to say that mourning is out of place for the Christian when loved ones got to be with the Lord. The fact that they are experiencing the supremely best lightens but does not take away the fact that our experience is of loss, loneliness, and great joys now irretrievably gone — however much we know they will be transcended by the ‘joyful reunion in the heavenly places’. It is a very beautiful thing that in this same letter in which Paul sounds the note of confident expectation in the face of death he also expresses the desolation which bereavement brings: ‘sorrow upon sorrow’ (Phil 2:27). and how true that is! In bereavement every tearful memory waits to be replaced by another, every sharp pang of loss is succeeded by a greater. Tears are proper for believers — indeed they should be all the more copious, for Christians are more sensitively aware of every emotion, whether of joy or sorrow, than those who had known nothing of the softening and enlivening grace of God.”