Anna’s empty apartment reverberated with laughter from the apartment next door and filled with enticing aromas that seeped under the hall door. Anna, tear-stained and angry, stood at her window looking down over the cars of the Smith’s numerous guests. Anna had been invited to go, but she could not celebrate when the pain of her parents’ recent death gripped her heart and filled her thoughts with precious memories that were now just that—memories.

For many of us or for those we know, Anna’s situation is all too familiar. Celebrations of the holidays stir up wonderful memories that can sometimes bring emotional pain. How can we handle these times of good cheer when our hearts are filled with sorrow? There are no easy answers, but we can better handle our pain by understanding the origin and reason for death and suffering.

Origin of Death

The first instance of death is found in the early chapters of the book of Genesis after man disobeyed God and sin entered the world. Death was the punishment for sin, part of God’s curse: “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19, NKJV).

The whole of creation suffers from the effects of man’s sin (Romans 8:20-21). Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (NKJV). Though completely absent from God’s original “very good” creation, the realities of death, pain, and disease are now part of life—the results of man’s rebellion against his holy God.

Provision from Death

Although we all deserve death because all of us have sinned, Genesis 3 tells us that our merciful God provided hope for Adam and Eve and mankind: He promised that He would one day send someone to defeat sin and death. God fulfilled that promise by sending His precious Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross and rise again on behalf of sinful mankind (Romans 5:8). Because of Jesus’ provision, the free gift of eternal life is available for those who will turn to and follow Christ.

God has promised to destroy death and suffering when He creates a new heaven and a new earth—one that is like, but superior to, the pre-Fall world (1 Corinthians 15:24–26; Revelation 21:4). This world will be without death and suffering.

While many share the holidays with family and friends, others remember loved ones who have passed away or suffer with an illness.

Dealing with Death

The holidays can be sad and painful times as we remember loved ones who have passed away or suffer with an illness. We may question God, His love, and His sovereignty in our lives.

But God is not unloving or cruel—He desires these struggles to be times of great spiritual growth (James 1:2–4).

If you have struggled through the holidays in the past, why not decide to make this year different?

There are many ways to remember your lost loved one; but to truly have a joyous holiday, focus on the love, mercy, grace, and goodness of our Creator and Savior and share the gospel with others who are hurting. Hebrews 12:1–2, 1 Corinthians 15:55–57, Proverbs 3:5–6, Philippians 4:7, Isaiah 55:8, and Romans 15:13 are just a few verses on which to focus our minds and hearts during this season.

God is undeniably a loving God. Death is neither a permanent part of our history nor a fixed aspect of our future. Death, suffering, sickness, disease, and pain will all have their end; and we, who have received the gift of eternal life, can rejoice with Paul, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades where is your victory? … But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57, NKJV).

We can find peace and hope during this holiday season, as we look to the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ.

Dr. Tommy Mitchell, a member of the Fellowship in the American College of Physicians, earned his M.D. from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and has been a physician for more than 20 years. He recently joined Answers in Genesis—USA as a researcher and speaker.

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