Articles and Publications

Pilgrim's Guides


  If Grief Takes Convoluted Paths
Part Eight



Resisting Anxiety
Resisting Pain-prone Reactions
Resisting Grief going Underground
Resisting the Stoic Approach

Resisting the Impulse to Flee

Resisting making Contact with the Dead
Resisting the Temptation to Suicide
Resisting the Desire to take Revenge
Resisting the but-what-ifs
Resisting excessive Self-consciousness
Resisting Aftershocks

  You are in error because you do not know Scriptures or the power of God. Matthew 22:29  
  Jesus knew exactly where He came from and where He was heading – but how do you think His disciples must have felt when He announced, It is to your advantage that I am going away (John 16:7)? They must have felt tempted to “know better” and to retort: “How can it possibly be better for You not to be here?”

Those who have experienced the sweetness of the Lord’s presence stealing upon them might feel best qualified to answer that question, for these special times when the Lord’s presence is close remind us more vividly than words alone could ever do of the nearness of His love for us. They, above all, are in a position to make sense of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s comment whilst in prison that, “Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom.”

Sometimes the most profound experiences happen in surprisingly matter of fact ways. At a time when he felt completely stuck in his work of preparing his translation of the New Testament, and utterly depressed in his life and faith, J. B. Phillips records how the recently deceased C. S. Lewis suddenly stood before him, having entered his bedroom through closed doors. In this vision experience, Lewis spoke just one short sentence to Phillips: “J. B., it’s not as hard as you think!” This “appearance” was precisely what was needed to draw Phillips out of his depression, and to set him free again to continue his life’s work.

Many of you will have your own stories of the “powers of the age to come” breaking through to bring you help and reassurance. Such experiences owe nothing to “spiritualism,” but everything to the Lord deliberately withdrawing the veil somewhat between Heaven and Earth. Why does He do this? Usually to bring direction, or to reassure us that a loved one is safely with Him. Sometimes it is to help us let go of them.

A friend who was struggling greatly in the aftermath of losing her mother lamented that she had not felt the presence of her mother for some time. Without telling her husband what she was doing, she prayed that the Lord would show him that her mother really was with the Lord. That night, he had a powerful dream, in which he saw his wife’s mother with the Lord, specifically giving her blessing to them as a couple in a way that she had never managed to do on Earth.

Shortly after her husband died, Catherine Marshall went into the hospital room where his body lay and suddenly realised:

  I was not alone. For a while there was a transcendent glory. Although I did not understand it then and can’t explain it now, I knew that Peter was near me. And beside him, another presence, the Lord he had served through long years stretching back to boyhood experiences on the moors of Scotland.7  

In time this experience faded, and Catherine Marshall was left longing for further reassurance that Peter really was still “alive.” What the Lord said to her then will be of help to us now.

  Once again you have been trying to put feeling before faith. Because you haven’t been able to feel Peter’s presence, you have assumed that he is lost to you forever. Simply have faith that he is with you whenever you need him. Assume it – and the feeling and the proof will come later. Accept this on faith.8  

Given that not all of us may be privileged to receive such “audible” confirmation, we do well to bear Jesus’ words in mind.

  Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
John 20:29

Experiences such as these remind us that the dead in Christ are by no means gone forever. Who knows what role they may still be playing on our behalf? We may one day discover to our delight that our loved ones continue to be involved in our pilgrimage, but now from the infinitely richer vantage point of sharing God’s presence and perspective.

Understanding nothing of this interaction between Heaven and Earth, the Sadducees tried to catch Jesus out, but He cut right through their chicanery:

  Marriage is for people here on Earth. But that is not how it will be in the age to come. For those worthy of being raised from the dead won’t be married then. And they will never die again. In these respects, they are like the angels. They are children of God raised up to new life. But now, as to whether the dead will be raised – even Moses proved this when He wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had died He referred to the Lord as the ‘God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ So He is the God of the living, not the dead. They are all alive to Him. Luke 20:34-38  

Jesus was pointing here to the wonderful continuity that exists between those of us who are part of His Church on Earth, and those who have died in Christ. Clothed now in their spiritual bodies, we can be very sure that they are able to think and praise on a much higher level than ever they could on Earth. What joy there will be when our time comes to meet with them in glory!

Contrary to certain popular superstitions, Scripture does not say that we will become angels – it tells us that we will be like the angels.9 Since this is to be our destiny, let’s get into training. What to angels do? They stand before the throne of God in worship, and are sent out from there on specific missions. Are we not called to do the same – first to draw close to the Lord, and then to go out to do His work, full of a Heavenly love that is free from all trace of lust and selfish exclusivity?

We are to steer well clear, however, of the many deceivers who are waiting in the wings to exploit our yearning to contact loved ones who have passed beyond. Although God in His mercy may occasionally grant some comforting sense of a loved one’s presence, we dare not make this a general expectation, let alone go looking for opportunities to make contact with them after they have died.

The Scriptures categorically forbid all types of divination – whether by palmistry, pendulums, horoscopes or the like. We are specifically instructed not to get in contact with the dead through mediums. The Hebrew word for spiritist is a “knowing one,” but much of the information that fortune-tellers provide is completely false, and comes from so deceptive a source that no wise person should have anything to do with it.

The spirit powers that are at work through mediums are perfectly prepared to trade platitudes about the afterlife, and even to accord insights into future events and physical healings – but if this permits an entry point into someone’s heart it is by no means the good deal it may at first appear.

Given how wonderful Heaven is, it was perhaps inevitable that the enemy would find suitable propagandists to publish so-called tales from beyond the grave in order to lull people into believing that the afterlife is certain to be sweet.

Interviewing people who had clinically died, but subsequently returned to life, Dr. Richard Kent found a strikingly similar pattern. Each person described how significant moments of their life passed before their eyes – but in the clearer light of eternity, most of these were not the events that had appeared the most important at the time on Earth. The real issue is whether they had loved God and the people God had placed around them.

Dr Kent’s findings are a powerful incentive not to leave getting right with God to our deathbed.10 In stark contrast to the so-called wisdom of the therapy TV chat shows, Jesus does not give a blanket reassurance that everyone will automatically fare well in the next world. Rather, as a matter of urgency He warns us to fear and honour God.11 The Scriptural teaching is clear: It is appointed for men to die once and then to face judgement (Hebrews 9:27).

I shared in “Angelic Assistance” how the Lord delights to send ministering spirits to our aid. He wants us to be aware of the ministry of angels, and confident of their ability to help. At the same time, we must be wise, for there are many deceiving spirits around. New Age and neo-pagan publications are full of stories of encounters with angels, and highly dubious out-of-body testimonies.

If you have had any involvement in such things, you will know a far greater freedom in your spirit if you repent of all such things in the name of Jesus, and ask people experienced in these matters to pray you free.

Reflect and Pray
Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.”

But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict His word are completely in the dark.
Isaiah 8:19-20

Lord Jesus, You said that You were going
to go and prepare a place for us,
so that we could be where You are.

Help us not to try to pierce the veil
in ways You cannot own.

Keep us from falling prey
to the temptation to consult occult powers.

Our past is safe in Your hands,
the future is Your concern,
and You will show us what we need to know
as and when we need to know it.

May we experience more and more of
Your leading from day to day.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Resisting the Temptation to Suicide
My particular grief is of so flood-gate and o’erbearing nature, that it engluts and swallows other sorrows.
Brabantio, in William Shakespeare’s Othello

A striking feature in the autobiographies of many fine Christian ministers is how they have been through times when they have felt so far down that they have wondered if they will ever come up again as they wrestle with the devil, who has been a murderer from the beginning.12  Read More . . .
7 This experience occurred when she entered the hospital room to see her husband's body.
8 Marshall, C. To Live Again. (2002) Chosen Books
9 Mark 12:25
10 Although we should not attribute undue authority to stories of death bed experiences, a number of impressive testimonies can be found at bibleprobe.com. Those recorded by Dr Maurice Rawlings concern people who tell their stories immediately after recovering from cardiac arrest. It was found that these people tend to forget all memory of negative experiences within a few days. See also www.grmi.org/Richard_Riss/evidences and home.earthlink.net
11 Luke 12:5

Back to top
Main Index
On to Resisting the Temptation to Suicide
Back to Resisting the Impulse to Flee