How can we get to Heaven to visit Auntie Chloe?

We’ve received a heart-breaking message from a close friend. She wrote:

"On Thursday last week my sweet, sweet sister Chloe died - she died trusting Jesus and we are confident that she is now safe and home and in his arms.

I have two young children. I wondered if you have any ideas (literally anything would be good) to help us talk to them about what’s happened. Their questions have included:

How did Auntie Chloe actually get to be with Jesus?
How can we get to Heaven to visit Auntie Chloe?
If Auntie Chloe is with Jesus, why are you crying?
Why couldn’t the doctors make her better?

Here is what we said in reply. We hope it helps others.

Dear Sarah,

I am so sorry. I am sorry for you, I am sorry for your children and I am so sorry for all of those who miss Chloe so much.

Firstly, I want to say that you know and love your boys better than I do, so please trust your godly instincts about what to say and how to love them best.

Secondly, please keep telling them the truth, keep listening to how they are making sense of their loss and keep showing them the hope we have in Christ. We really can say with Paul,

“We want you to know about those who have died. We do not want you to be sad as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4: 13, ICB)

This is true. We can speak words of hope and certainty to our children. We have our faith for days such as these. There are a few books that others seem to recommend, but I’m going to tell you what I would say to my children.

With tears in my eyes, I would sit with them, open up my Bible in John 11 and take them to the only one who has the words of eternal life.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11: 32-36; NIV)

Jesus knows how sad it is when loved ones die – he cries too, he knows we have questions, he lets us ask those questions.

Everyone there had questions like we do: Why didn’t Jesus stop Chloe from dying? Why doesn’t Jesus do something now? This is why we have, in the Gospels, what Jesus said and did to help us.

Jesus does something that no one else could do. He calls Lazarus‘ name and his words bring life to Lazarus’ body. Dead Lazarus walked out alive! To be with Jesus. Jesus did that on earth so the people standing there, and us as we read it, can know that he is Lord of life and death. The best place for Lazarus was with Jesus. Jesus called his name and Lazarus came to be with him. The best place for Aunty Chloe to be is with Jesus; Jesus has called her name, she is now with him, in heaven.

For very young children I would then go back and read v 11. Jesus is saying, that when we die as Jesus' friends, it’s like we fall asleep on earth, and Jesus wakes us up in heaven. Children need clarity that sleep and death are different. But Jesus has the power to wake his friends from death, in the same way that we can wake our friends from sleep. For very young children this can be enough.

For older children I would read v25-26. Jesus can do what is needed. He raises his friends to be with him where he is, just like he did for Lazarus. Jesus raises Chloe to be with him. That is how we can live, even though we die, do you believe this? These are the words we read out at a funeral, because they are the words we all need to hear about the only person who can help if we believe in Him.

However you do this, know that Jesus is with you to help you, and pray; pray for yourself, pray for them, pray with them. And be assured of our prayers.

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