For Saints, Death Brings Full Freedom
December 7, 2013
Death is a weird thing: One hour the person is there, alive, breathing, maybe even talking or laughing; then the next hour that person is gone. Their spirit is no longer inhabiting their body. The body is now a corpse. No life. Just empty. Empty of thought, of breath, of life. Horrible. Horrible to think of.
But what makes death okay? What actually makes thinking of death –and death itself– a victory, not a terror? God. Jesus. He who is Eternal Life. What a comfort! What an unfathomable comfort! We may grieve the loss of being separated for a while from a loved one. We may shed tears because of the pain involved in the suffering that leads to the death. But! With the Lord, death is conquered. It is, in view of eternity, nothing. It is a speck of transition. Transition from this groaning, decaying, enslaved earth, to the freedom, the bliss, and the paradise of Heaven.
How can anyone endure dying, or endure seeing their loved one die, if they do not know the Lord? If they do not have that confidence of knowing they or that beloved one is only going through the last hard test –the one which blossoms into glory, honor, youth, endless freedom, and the eternal, unhindered presence of the Lord? I can’t comprehend what goes through the minds of unbelievers during this valley. What incredible gloom and emptiness they must feel.
I was informed of two deaths yesterday morning. One was a translator in Africa (who I don’t know) who was shot during the battle which has erupted in their city. Very sad, as he leaves behind a wife and three children. The other was my parents’ good friend who has had Lou Gehrig’s Disease for three years. He and his wife spent their lives in South American as missionaries, and though he lived a wonderful and long life, it is still sad. However, it is also a relief, for we were all dreading the last stages of the wretched disease, and now, having gone into the hospital just two days before with pneumonia, the Lord took him quickly night before last. His dear wife, with whom he had a beautiful and sweet relationship, was right by his side, as she had so caringly been during his entire sickness. (My parents, thankful now for some extra hours with him, had just been visiting with him and his wife that afternoon at the hospital, and had also visited them at their home a few days before that.)
We know that our friend is with the Lord. We know that he no longer is suffering. We know that he, living now in the realm outside of time, is young, vibrant, and full of joy with His Savior. Unable to talk for over a year, he now, we know, has no hindrance to his voice and is praising God along with countless other saints. In our sorrow, what rejoicing we are enabled to have through this knowledge!
And what about the rest of us? When it is our time to go, will we be ready? –Ready to face the Judge? –The One who has seen everything we’ve done, heard our every word, and traced our every thought? What legacy will we leave behind? Did we improve the world at all? Did we seek out the hurting, bind up their wounds, and care tenderly for those God entrusted to us? Did we spend our lives for others in the proclamation of the Truth and in the furtherance of sacrificial love? If we did not devote our whole lives to these, did we give at least some of our time? Even a year, a month… even an hour?
Or was our focus on ourselves? On what we wanted? On what we thought we deserved? When we come to the foot of the Throne, what will be in our box to present to the Judge? –A few scraps of kindness? Will we even have a box at all? Or will we be left standing bare, standing disgraced before the One whose command to love Him and others went unheeded so, so often? Might the box be actually full of cruelty, corruption, and filth?
Why do people not think of these things? Denial of Truth can help no one. Sticking one’s head in the sand is not going to make Truth go away. There is a Judge. He does pay everyone his wages. Sin’s wage is death, eternal death. (Rom. 6:22,23) If a person is disciplined here on earth, that person should be utterly grateful, for it is meant to train him to turn his heart from sin to God’s ways. As much as our friend loved the Lord, his wife told us often that he never complained about his illness, but kept insisting that it was a blessing, and that this was the case because through the valley the Lord was refining him some more. What a testimony and model for us and our attitudes!
Death is truly a weird thing. But it is certainly a reality. For us all. May each of us be ready when our turn comes.