This COVID-19 pandemic season has been dark. Our church family has experienced three deaths since we have been separated from one another. As I write this article, I’m preparing to preach my third virtual funeral through livestream tomorrow. Although it’s being called a virtual funeral, the truth of the matter is—it’s real and such reality necessitates tangible hope.
The Reality of Pain
The family members who prepare to bury their loved ones during this pandemic experience the reality of loneliness as they walk into an empty room. The funeral directors don’t have to ask everyone to stand as the family enters, because the room is literally empty. The pain is only intensified through an empty room with friends and family watching through a camera positioned at the back of the room.
As we navigate the pathway of this pandemic, we hear the word virtual being used in church contexts and business circles. Initially when you hear the word virtual it brings to mind virtual reality which makes you think of something that looks real, but it’s really a fake pixelated imaginary world. In a virtual reality world you merely remove the glasses when you are experiencing fear and whatever you were experiencing immediately disappears. That is not possible at a virtual funeral service. It’s real and so is the pain and sadness.
The Real Challenge of Social Distancing
As Christians, we are taught in the Scriptures to “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). During this season of social distancing, the Christian community is unable to embrace one another properly as boundaries are placed before us preventing social comforts.
As the church watches hurting friends in their pain through a livestream service—even video calls following the service can only provide so much comfort. There are no hugs, handshakes, or Christian fellowship during these livestream virtual services. This goes against the grain of what the church is called to do. There is a low ceiling to technology when it comes to demonstrating true love and comfort to those people you love the most.
The Real Hope of Jesus
As we sit in empty rooms for virtual funeral services, we must look to our real hope that we have in Christ Jesus. In a strange providential season when friends, family, and our church body is kept at a distance—we must cling to the hope we have in Jesus Christ. We must remember the words of Jesus as he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
We have hope in Christ and we must remember that he has gone before us—passing through death—and now ruling from heaven’s throne. Jesus holds the keys of death in his hand (Rev. 1:18). In that same verse, while speaking to John the apostle while he was on the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel, Jesus said, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18).
Although death is a powerful enemy and we will all have our time to face death—while we walk through the dark valleys of life and mourn the death of loved ones during a season of social distancing, we must remember that Jesus’ tomb is still empty and heaven’s throne is still occupied. Jesus is alive and he intercedes for us in seasons of real pain and sadness.
We do not weep as those who do not have hope—for our hope is in Jesus, the risen Redeemer who will one day give life to our mortal bodies when Christ raises us in bodies that are immortality (1 Thess. 4:13; 1 Cor. 15).
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54–57).