"Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he's given you," suggests John Piper, founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minnesota.
He said 1 Thessalonians 4:13 is the reason for his counsel, because Paul says, "We do not want you to be uninformed ... about those who are asleep, about those who have died, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope."
So, there's real grieving, which Paul expects, and there's hope, reminded Piper. "Grieving is real, losses are real, pain is real -- really felt, really expressed -- and hope is real that changes it profoundly," he said.
Piper served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Min., for 33 years. The church was launched in 1871 to serve congregants of the Twin Cities. He ministered there until March 31, 2013.
He said he has in mind two kinds of losses: Those who had something precious and lost it, and those who hoped for something precious and never had it. "It works both ways. Sixty years go by, and 40 years on, you think, 'I've come to terms with that,' and then one morning, it breaks over you, and you weep about a 40-year old loss, or a 40-year 'never have,' and my counsel is, yes, go ahead, embrace that moment. Weep."
But then, say no to your weeping after a season, he recommends, telling yourself "You will not define me, sorrow, because my God has said, 'No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly' (Psalm 84:11). Therefore, even though it was good in one sense, and I miss it in one sense, I trust my God, and he has not withheld anything that is good for me."
"Yes, let there be weeping in those seasons - feel the losses," said Piper. "Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life he's given you."
Piper's father was a traveling evangelist and church planter. Piper was born in Chattanooga, Tenn. When he and his older sister were still young, the Pipers moved to Greenville, South Carolina, where he spent the remainder of his youth and graduated from Wade Hampton High School.
Piper advocates Christian hedonism and teaches that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him" and that God's highest pursuit ("His glory") and man's deepest and most durable happiness come together in one pursuit, namely, the pursuit of joy in God.
In general, Piper recently asked online: "Do you want to shine like stars? Be done with grumbling. It is astonishing that the apostles put such an emphasis here."