We sometimes sing a beautiful hymn that captures the essence of the struggle godly people often experience in life. The title of the hymn is Farther Along, and it asks the questions that we so often ponder when bad things happen to good people. The first two stanzas pose the question of why things seem to go well for the wicked, while godly people suffer. The second stanza is particularly poignant because it speaks of how we feel when a loved one has passed away. The third and fourth stanzas exhort us to remain faithful to the Lord in spite of these things because we believe there is a better place awaiting us in the future. In the chorus the words encourage us to persevere because we will one day understand it all. The sentiment of this song is absolutely biblical, and it declares a principle that ought to never be overlooked.
The scriptures clearly teach us that life will be characterized by ups and downs. After the sin in the Garden of Eden God cursed the ground and turned man’s work into toil. He also increased the woman’s pain in childbirth. In addition to this, sickness, disease, and physical death became inevitable for mankind. To top it all off, sin became prevalent in the world, bringing about its own temporal consequences along with the prospect of eternal punishment. These are things that affect everyone, no matter what his or her relationship to God.
When Paul wrote his second letter to the young preacher Timothy, he advised him that Christians must also expect to endure persecution because of their faith. In 2 Tim. 3:12 he said, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” This is an inescapable part of devoting oneself to the living God. However, it should not be a source of discouragement for us. The apostles rejoiced when they were persecuted because they felt it an honor to be counted worthy to suffer shame for their faith in the Lord (Acts 5:41). The reason why they could do so is that they understood what Paul would later write to the church in Rome. In Rom. 8:18 he said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” The apostles knew that something better awaited them, and thus they were able to endure in the face of persecution.
The same truth applies with regard to physical death. In the second stanza of Farther Along, the words say, “When death has come and taken our loved ones, it leaves our home so lonely and drear; then do we wonder why others prosper, living so wicked year after year.” The biblical answer to this lament is found in 1 Th. 4:13-18. There Paul told the Thessalonian Christians not to grieve over the dead as do the rest who have no hope. Instead, he assured them that the dead in Christ will rise first on the last day, and then all the righteous will join the Lord in the air and forever be with Him. In v. 18 he said, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”
These words are comfort indeed when we have lost a loved one. For the Christian death is not the end, but simply a transition to a far better place. We don’t fully comprehend it when a loved one departs, but farther along we will understand. If we hold the faith of Christ dear in our hearts, we know that all the things we are unable to comprehend now will one day be fully known. We know that truly, “Farther along we’ll know all about it, farther along we’ll understand why. Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine. We’ll understand it all by and by.” May God help us to have the faith to patiently wait until we have gone farther along.