By Andy Smith

I’ve lived long enough that I’ve lost a number of people I love–family and friends. I’ve cried at funerals, and spent time processing grief. Especially after my parents died.

Thinking about these people, who were and are so dear to me, still causes some pain.

But it also causes curiosity. What are they doing?

What is the next life like? A detailed discussion of that is beyond me. But at least one bit is revealed in the New Testament, as it is read in our celebration of All Saints Day.

One of the activities of those who’ve finished this life is encouraging us–you and me, and everyone else who’s still in this life. They’re cheering for us, rooting for us. They want us to finish strong.

They’re cheering for us, rooting for us. They want us to finish strong.

Scripture tells us that “we are surrounded by a great of cloud of witnesses.”

Both athletes and students benefit from encouragement: the roar of the crowd, or an energizing talk from a coach, or the praise of a teacher.

But encouragement in a supernatural sense is more than a psychological pick-me-up. It empowers us.

Those who’ve left this world are only one source of such encouragement. As followers of Jesus, we can encourage each other, “stirring up one another to good works.”

There’s also the third and greatest source of encouragement: Jesus Himself. His Word enables us to do what we otherwise can’t.

Whether directly from Jesus, or in the mouth of a fellow disciple, or in the heavenly chorus of those who’ve left this world, these encouragements are God’s life-giving, life-changing, empowering Word. It makes us capable.

In the process, we get the chance to speak that Word to others. When we encourage, we’re passing on a bit of what God has given to us.

I miss my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and coworkers. But I’m thankful that they’re not dour-faced judges. They’re a part of my support system.

Which is why, in the final analysis, one of the themes of All Saints Day is not grief, but thanksgiving.