If you are anything like me, tragedy causes you to question everything you say to the people you care about. You question whether or not to say anything at all. In order to help myself in these situations, I’ve decided to think about it ahead of time and write down some bible verses that are helpful for a variety of difficult situations in which I want to be careful no to say something stupid.
Now, doing this, remember that even when you are nervous about what to say, your presence speaks loudly. Be present for the people you love even when you don’t have the words to say.
But given that you are like me and you want to know what places to point people to in these moments, I thought it would be helpful to consider what we can say when someone dies.
Scriptures that are comforting when someone dies:
Psalm 23, which speaks to the God who walks with us and cares for us even in the darkest valleys and in the shadows of even death itself.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Isaiah 25:6-9, which speaks to the important reality that death doesn’t get the last laugh. Death stings, but it doesn’t win.
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples,a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.The Lord has spoken.9 In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
John 11:35, which is the shortest verse in the Bible and reminds us that in our moments of grief, Jesus grieves with us.
Romans 8:31-35, 37-39, which speaks to God being on our side. While death and the devil are raging war against us, God is for us. While we suffer and are in pain, we can be reminded that God is fighting for us and nothing is going to stop him.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Death is always hard. And often more important than being able to remember these scriptures is going to be you being present in the lives of the people you love. As Christians, we can put our hope that death is not the end. And because of that, while we might hurt, we also can hope.
A teacher of mine once suggested about death that, “Resurrection makes dying hard.”
This might be a bit odd at first glance, but consider it. The fact that Jesus rises from the dead and the fact that we are promised a resurrection proves that death is not the way God intended things to work. And so while we have the hope of eternal life that comes with dying, dying is still hard. And it’s hard because it’s not the way God intended for this to work. Death isn’t just an escape from the awful, worldly life.
Death is the enemy and it still stings, but it doesn’t win.