Shortly after my mother died, I went to a restaurant alone, to write in my journal about my thoughts about my recent loss. My mother’s name was “Sara,” so I thought it interesting when the waitress came to my table and told me her name was “Sara.” I ordered my usual favorite beverage, but the waitress brought my mother’s favorite beverage instead, by mistake. Even in my grief I could not help but see the humor. I told a friend who I used to go to church with, about the irony of the waitress having my mother’s name and bringing me my mother’s soda. I was surprised when my friend assured me it was my mother who caused all those ironies, to let me know she was still with me. I had to remind my friend what we learned in the Bible about what happens when a person dies.
For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 NKJV.
By things my Adventist friends are telling me, and things they share on their Facebook pages, like wishing their dead loved ones a “happy heavenly birthday” and so on, is showing me that even many Adventists are falling for the deception of spiritualism. It gives them a false sense of comfort to think that their dead loved one is still watching over them. Does God not do a good job of watching over us? Can we not trust God so we trust our dead loved ones to care for us instead? They want to believe in signs letting them know their dead loved one still loves them. This would not be a temptation if they realized how much God loves them. When my mother died there were so many miracles letting me know that God cared. A friend sent me a substantial amount of money, totally unsolicited, which was greatly needed. When I pleaded with God He woke my mother up from unconsciousness one last time so I could tell her I loved her before she fell asleep in Jesus. Shortly after my mother died I was suddenly hit with an overwhelming sense of loneliness and cried out to God that I was all alone in the world. At that same moment when I cried out to God, I received a text message from a friend from out of state, with whom I had not spoken in ages. He texted me to remind me that God loves me, and so do my friends. These were not miracles from my mother letting me know she cared. These were greater and more wonderful miracles from God showing me God cares.
When people are more comforted by a supposed miracle from a dead loved one than from God Himself, it shows that they love their dead loved one more than God. That is making an idol of their dead loved one. Why should it mean more to get a “heavenly message” from a dead loved one than from God Himself? God is constantly showering us with love and miracles. When we credit those miracles to our dead loved ones we are now putting our dead loved ones in the place of God. A gentle breeze brushing my face means a lot more to me, coming from God, than it would even if it could come from a dead loved one. Why should a dead loved one, or even a living being, mean more to me than God?
I knew an elderly Adventist woman who lived in a small Adventist community. Her husband died and was buried in a cemetery just a block or so from her house. About every day, she would visit his grave and “talk” to him. One day she looked out her front window and perceived him walking up the sidewalk. He stopped at the window and stared at her through the glass. Being an Adventist and knowing the state of the dead, she knew it was not her husband, but a demon. This scared her into realizing she had been putting herself on the devil’s playground by her excessive visits, talking to her dead husband at his grave. After this experience she never returned to his grave. After all, she did not need to talk to her dead husband. She needed to be talking to Jesus, who could hear what she was saying, just like Saul did not need to be talking to dead Samuel. He should have been talking to God. I don’t know if a demon really personified itself as this woman’s husband, or if it was just her imagination. She claimed it was real and not just her imagination. Either way, it was a direct result of her acting like she was talking to the dead – which spiritualism teaches to be a real possibility, but the Bible teaches is an impossibility.
Years ago, a friend came back from vacation with a terrible story. While he was visiting his in-laws, his wife’s sister’s toddler drowned in the pool. On the way to the hospital, the wife’s sister was pleading with the virgin Mary to save her son. Mary is dead. There was nothing Mary could do anyway. The elderly Adventist woman, and my friend’s sister-in-law should not have been talking to dead people. That is a waste of time. They know nothing. We need to be talking to Jesus who can hear us, and does love us and constantly provides miracles, showering us with love.
I attended a wedding where the groom had lost his father a couple of years before the wedding. All through the wedding and reception it was repeated over and over that the groom’s father was dead and could not be at the wedding. So much emphasis was placed on the father not being there that it was almost like all the living people there did not matter. I am not one to tell people how to grieve, and forgive me, I am not trying to sound cold, but this seems like another form of idol worship. What was to be a joyous and sacred service turned out to be all about the groom’s dead loved one. What about his new bride? What about all the family and friends who were there? Did they mean nothing? Did our heavenly Father’s presence mean nothing? When we spend all our time grieving those who are gone, we fail to appreciate our loved ones who are still with us. We fail to appreciate God’s love.
Of course we all grieve, and that is healthy and natural. But excessive grief, which does not allow us to be in the moment and appreciate God and those still living, could be a form of idolatry. Feeling the need to credit dead loved ones for miracles and answered prayers is idolatry. Even thinking that we need a dead family member’s love more than we need God’s love is idolatry. As much as my family loves me, God loves me more. As much as I need my family, I need God more. As much as I love my family, I love God more. I can’t allow any loved one, living or dead, to take God’s place in my life. Spiritualism teaches us to put dead loved ones in the place of God. By giving dead loved ones excessive attention and adoration it becomes worship and idolatry. Only God Himself deserves that much attention and adoration. By wishing to pray or communicate with dead loved ones supposedly in heaven is to put them in God’s place. God is in heaven and I can pray and communicate with Him. We don’t need to talk to our dead loved ones when we can talk to God Himself. We don’t need spiritualism or idolatry which puts dead loved ones in God’s place in heaven. We have a God in heaven who loves and cares for us more than any loved one can. We have a God in heaven who can take care of us better than any family member. Let’s give our sleeping loved ones the rest they deserve and worship God who is Worthy of our trust and worship.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.