“And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, ‘For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.’ Thus his father wept for him.”
Dealing with the death of a loved one is perhaps the most difficult part of life. Since God created us for life, and it was sin that brought death into the world, we were never really designed to handle death. No matter what, death seems to be unexpected, and the emotions that arise within us are more than we can bear. I recently heard Greg Laurie say, death is often more difficult for the believer because we love at a deeper level. The extreme grief associated with death is made evident in the reaction of Jacob, upon hearing of the death of his son, Joseph. He is so utterly devastated by the news, he refuses to be comforted. While death is difficult, the sorrow it brings is deep, and a season of mourning is expected, but there is something unnatural about Jacob refusing comfort. He should have been comforted by at least three truths.
First, Paul declared that we, the believers, do not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Jacob should have been comforted in knowing that while life on earth ended too soon for his son, Joseph, eternity awaited him. David, in a similar situation, received comfort knowing, while on earth he would not see his son again, they would be reunited in eternity (2Samuel 12:23).
Second, while the sorrow of death is great, God himself promises to be our comforter. Paul spoke of the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our tribulations (2 Corinthians 1:3-40). He speaks of a comfort that is so great it is able to not only to strengthen us, but give us what we need to aid others who are facing similar difficulties. Jesus added, the role of the Holy Spirit would be to comfort the believer (John 14:26), even calling Him “The Comforter.” When Paul said we do not sorrow as those who have no hope, it is partly due to the fact that we have the hope of being comforted by God. In our deepest pain, we can cling to His great love.
Finally, it was wrong for Jacob to refuse comfort, because he could not see the overall plan of God. His case is unique in that his son was not actually dead. However, it serves to illustrate the truth that God is the author of a much bigger plan than we can see or comprehend. While Jacob wept over the loss of his son, God was raising Joseph to a place of prominence within Egypt, in order to save a nation. What seemed to be a loss for Jacob, would prove to be the way of salvation for his family.
At the end of the story we read, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20).
It has been my experience that death within a family will often lead others into a relationship with Christ. While that does not completely remove the sorrow of loss, it does help us to see the overall plan of God. His great desire is for all men everywhere to be saved. If you are struggling to grasp the comfort available to you because of the loss of someone you love, allow me to encourage you to get alone, call out to God, and let the consolation of Christ, and the comfort of His love surround and strengthen you.