In the Beginning He Died
How can loving someone bring so much joy and so much pain? The love is a gift from God. I am not talking about romantic love, although that is also a gift from God. I am talking about love that inspires someone to lay down their own life for others. I don’t mean literally physically die, although that has happened. I mean give up what you want for the good of those that you love. Or, do more than is required of you because you love those who are in need. Loving someone makes a connection that isn’t daunted by time or space. The love remains. But part of love is loneliness. You can’t be with the ones you love all the time. You can’t provide for their every need. You can’t stay in a cheerful humor as long as they are in the line of your sight. A part of loving others is admitting that love causes stress.
Possibly the most overwhelming pain caused by love comes when someone you love dies. If they die suddenly and unexpectedly a time of unparalleled grief smothers you. If they die of a lingering illness grief smothers you just the same, but it is sort of spread over time. When it is an older person who has lived a long and satisfying life it is still very hard. When it is a younger person who seems to have so much left to do, it seems impossible.
For Christians, there is sure knowledge of a reunion in heaven with our loved ones. That is comforting, but it doesn’t stop the pain that comes with the loss of a loved one. We don’t sorrow as those who have no hope of a reunion, but Christians still mourn the loss of loved ones. Really we are mourning for ourselves. We are left to face a lonely future without someone we wanted to keep with us. Hopefully, when there is a loss, we don’t waste any time being angry at God. We should just be thankful that God has our loved one in a place that is not only safe but also wonderful. If there is anger let it pass away from you. We can direct it toward the devil. The entire death fiasco was brought about when he beguiled Eve. But, the Bible tells us to let the anger, bitterness, and wrath pass away from us. How much more so if we are foolish enough to direct anger at God Himself?
I tell you the truth: the dead Christian is just far away. It seems like a million miles or more. There is no communication what so ever. Even trying to communicate is sin. It is forbidden. Suffice it to say that we will know our family and loved ones in heaven. I don’t know what we will look like. I don’t know what we will be like. But we will know each other. It is even a greater truth that the person who has ‘died’ is actually living in heaven. What we are really adjusting to is the distance between the living and the dead. I have heard it said that death is just a part of life, to which I say ‘baloney’. God made the world perfect with no death. THAT is the reality. The next reality was that sin entered in. Death came along with sin. So, while death happens all the time, it will never be ‘normal’ or ‘just part of life’.
My illness this past year has caused me to look at death more closely than ever before. There was a time when I thought I was not going to stay in this body much longer. I did not want to go, but the thought of no more pain was so compelling that if I had had a choice at one point I would have just gone straight to heaven. I couldn’t have helped myself. Death for me at that time would have been a way out of a great deal of pain and a body that was growing weaker by the day. My main prayers through my cancer were for my husband and family. I would much rather be the one who is sick than to watch someone else going through it. Besides, I know the loneliness that comes from the loss of a loved one. I wasn’t going to be the one who had to face that!
A dear friend of mine has been a widow for nearly ten years now. Watching her and her children go through the loss of their loved one was as much grief as I have had to bear. My friend told me that her husband (a preacher) often told people wondering how someone was getting through a loss that, ‘God don’t give you dying grace on un-dying days’. (Baptist preachers use bad grammar when they want to ‘emphasize a point’) That means that we can’t understand how we will get through the loss of a loved one until we have to go through it. Actually, even then we don’t understand everything that went on. It seems like we would just die from grief sometimes, or that at least the world would stop and mourn with us for a while. Instead, nothing really changes except our own lives and the lives of those closest to us. Everything else seems to go on just the same. So, how people get through the loss of loved one is really a mystery. God just takes us through the grief. There is no other answer.
But, I do wonder what it is like when we pass from this life into the next. In this world we are born and we die. When we die Christians go to heaven where their eternal life begins. Non-believers go to hell where their eternal torment begins. There is that moment when one reality changes into another and permanent reality. That moment when we slip into eternity is sort of a big question mark. When I didn’t know what was going to happen with the cancer I wondered what it would be like to die. I guess the main thing I wondered was if it was going to hurt. I was already in a lot of pain, and I really did not want more pain to go with what was already going on in my frail body.
I began to think about that moment when this life would be changed for the new beginning. Heaven is under construction I suppose because Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us. Sometimes when I pray I say, ‘So Jesus, how is the building project coming along?’ I am hoping I will get a bell ringing in my head saying something like, ‘I’m almost finished. I will be back for all my children shortly.’ However, the closest I have come to getting an answer is what seems like a little voice in my head saying, ‘Nun’ya – meaning none of your business.’ Seriously, I can’t imagine what God is preparing for us in all this time since He made so much in six days. When we get to heaven we will begin life in a wonderful place. We can be certain of that. It will be new since Jesus is working on preparing it now.
I do not want to slide down into the valley of ‘trying to prove something by experience and feelings’. However, I don’t think it is doing that to mention that through the ages there have been many witnesses to Christians dying who may have seen a glimpse of something or someone from beyond this life. This isn’t scriptural. This does not prove anything. It is just something that has been reported. We don’t have to have anything like this because we have a more sure testimony to the heaven of Jesus Christ. We have the written word of God. Never the less, there is sometimes a glimpse of something beyond when someone dies. No, I don’t mean we should all go lurking around the death beds of Christians trying to see a glimpse of eternity. It is just something that occasionally happens. I was not there for the death of either of my grandfathers. My dad was there both times. Both grandfathers were professing Christians. One was coughing out his last breath when – according to my dad – he smiled the most beautiful smile. Then he was gone. The other grandfather, also a professing Christian died without anything out of the ordinary. Dad said that death is most certainly not something anyone would seek to be around. Just do whatever your duty may be. Don’t look for something out of the ordinary. I know at the end of their lives my father in law and my dad both seemed to be seeing people who had been in heaven a long time. Were they really there? I don’t know. Whether their family was waiting for them the instant they died or a few minutes later in heaven doesn’t really matter.
Personally, during the darkest part of my cancer treatment it did seem like I saw my dad a few times. It seemed very normal and not like it was something amazing. At one point I almost followed him somewhere – I have no idea where – but something stopped me. I was in a lot of pain so I don’t really know what was real and what wasn’t real. I didn’t do narcotic pain medicine, so I don’t think it was anything to do with prescription drugs. It was just something that seemed to be going on. It seemed so natural to see dad. Life after death for Christians is actually when life begins. And what a life it will be! Our eternal life will be filled with joy. We won’t be separated from loved ones ever again. We won’t know sorrow. We won’t know any emotional or physical pain. We won’t know disappointment anymore. We shall obtain joy and gladness and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
My conclusion after facing a year of cancer treatment is this. Dying – as in the actual dying - is not going to be that hard for the one dying. I think it will be sort of like walking from one room to another room. Except – the new room will be eternally neat and clean with dinner always ready. The difficult part of dying is for those who are still alive. They have to face the separation that comes with death. All anyone can do is cling to Jesus. Jesus is the one who will take us through the illness if we are the one who is sick. Jesus is the One who will take us to heaven when we actually do die. Jesus is the One who will take us through the grief if we are the one who loses a loved one to death. Jesus is the One who will take us through whatever trials befall us as we run our race. The long and short of it is something like ‘fear God and keep the commandments; OR, cling to Jesus. Cling to Him when you are getting up, when you are lying down, when you are walking, when you are sitting, and so on. Cling to Jesus all the time.
I love the line from the old hymn that says, ‘There’s a land that is fairer than day, and by faith we can see it afar.’ I think of the beautiful days I have seen in this life. The overwhelming beauty of God’s creation is not something to take lightly. But, heaven is fairer than the most beautiful of days we have ever seen on this earth. Heaven is a very real place. Heaven is filled with very real people who once lived on earth but now live in heaven. They are doing very real things, although we don’t know exactly what they are doing, but it is definitely something wonderful and fulfilling. The dead in Christ have entered into the joy of the Lord. Until then we cling to Jesus and look forward to what the Lord is preparing for those that love Him. Death is the beginning for them that love God.
In the Sweet Bye and Bye