All of us have had to face death:
A family pet, a good friend, a close relative, your spouse or possibly even your own child. The pain we feel inside for the loss of this person wells up from depths we didn’t even know we had! We pour our hearts out grieving because our lives will no longer have this amazing soul in it. We will miss them tremendously. Those experiences shared together, the memories made, invade our every fiber for days, weeks, or longer. This is because we are sad for OUR loss, and the loss of their future.
“I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears.”
When a follower of Jesus dies, it is not a goodbye, but a “See you soon”.
So why don’t we as believers cheer for another believer’s death? After all, we know where they are going! They will no longer have pain, and they will be whole. They get the honor of meeting the Lord face to face before we do! They will have completed their race in this life.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
At my son’s track meet, we cheer him on, encouraging him to keep going, to fight through the exhaustion, and find the strength to endure until he crosses that finish line. When his heat is done and we get to hug him, thats when we usually congratulate his accomplishment and completing the race, no matter what his final outcome or position. We do not mourn the end of his race, instead, we are proud of him for making it to the end and for doing his best.
“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
My grandfather is 97 years old. In the last few months, his health has been deteriorating, resulting in several trips to the hospital, new medicines, and more round-the-clock care. In the last week, he has declined even more so with falls, weakness and confusion. He is 97! I know, this is a part of life’s cycle and our body’s process of aging. Death is to be expected. Still, we don’t ever feel ready for them to be gone.
For Grandpa, who has been a pastor all of his life, death would be the crowning moment! The ONE whom he preached about he will see, talk to, shake hands, and even hug and kiss Him! Knowing Grandpa, when they sit down to talk, he would ask Jesus if while they chat he could give Him a foot massage too. (Seriously, he would ask to do this for the Lord.)
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 5:6-8
I am by no means saying do no mourn or feel sadness and heartache for your loved one that is gone! I empathetically offer you the reminder that if they knew Jesus as their Lord, it really is a time to celebrate the end of their race and the beginning of their eternal service to their King in his heavenly kingdom. If you can take a moment to celebrate their life lived and honor their call to go home, that heartache might just lessen enough for you to feel a peace and be able to smile through your pain.
If your loved one that passed away was not a follower or believer in Jesus, for that I am truly deeply sorry. I will grieve with you. At this point, you can look to the others around you whom you love that don’t have faith in the Lord, and pray for them, earnestly. Time is of the essence.
We have hope of eternal life because of Jesus’ resurrection. For this I celebrate with joy, even through the tears.
Food for thought: The 7 Stages of Grief:
1. SHOCK & DENIAL
2. PAIN & GUILT
3. ANGER & BARGAINING
4. DEPRESSION, REFLECTION, LONELINESS
5. THE UPWARD TURN
6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH
7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE
Fun facts: When a caterpillar spins its cocoon, it is preparing for its death as a caterpillar. The caterpillar knows of its pending death-like intermission. When encased in the cocoon tomb, most of its cells die. BUT, soon this creature begins to transform and resurrects as a new creature, a beautiful butterfly!
Hmmm, I wonder if the Lord designed the butterfly for our benefit to better understand our death to the old life and rebirth in the new life, both physically and spiritually.
Photo by: Kari Wiseman – A Butterfly’s new life