Thursday, June 5, 2008

Death & Loss: Intensely Private, but An Open Book

I have two rules here for writing on my blog: 1) keep personal things just that, and 2) write about spiritual experiences on weekends. Rule number one is important since too much personal stuff may compromise privacy and the second rule is just as important because while I am obligated to share my thoughts and experiences and move as the Spirit moves in me, I keep the writings about these things for the weekend when I feel readers will get the most out of it.

I thought it was important to share my thoughts about death, grieving and loss because it is so prevalent - obviously. I have learned that I can't have an appreciation for life unless there is death - and even then death is limited in it's power since it was conquered on the Cross. But still, in the here and now, we do morn our losses along the way. Part of the human condition - the experience of being human - is to surround ourselves with the people we enjoy being with, the people we love, and inevitably the people we miss when they are no longer in the flesh.

This month marks the one year anniversary of my mother's death and the third month anniversary of my older sister's death. There are countless other anniversaries that may be marked as well: maternal grandparents, maternal aunts, greats aunt, uncles and great uncles as well as paternal grandfather. Time heals the pain of many departed in my life, not just family, but friends, but I do think of all of them, sometimes often. It could be a song, something I see, or a synaptic nerve firing in my brain to trigger a memory of a missing loved one.

We all suffer loss of some kind. Recently, I was told by the love of my life that she lost two friends. I think she handled the funeral well, but only she knows that for sure. I share her loss even if I never knew her friends. They were her friends and if they rose to that kind of status in her life, then they were marvelous people and worthy of prayer and remembrance.

Dealing with Death - Experienced By Everyone
Dealing with death is a life experience that no one wants to face. Life can often seem like swimming in the ocean during high tide. Even if we know how to swim and jump over the big waves at just the right time, when we least expect it-wham! We are broadsided, and find ourselves spinning and bouncing off the bottom of the ocean with a mouth full of sand. If we fight, it takes longer to get to the surface. But if we float with the current, we come right to the top. Floating when we are frightened is difficult. It takes trust and concentration. Dealing with the death of a loved one is similar. In order to cope, it takes trust.

Death is nearly always accompanied by questions - especially "why." Whether we are facing our own death, or the death of someone we love, we want answers. Why is this happening? What did I do to deserve this? Is there life after death? The sooner we learn to float - to trust - the easier it is to discover the answers we are seeking.

Dealing with Death - The True Position
When dealing with death, the solution is the same whether the death is our own or that of a loved one. As hard as it is to accept, we must understand that death is a part of life. As some have quipped, death is the only thing in life that comes with a 100% guarantee.

It is helpful to realized that while our bodies are mortal, all human beings are eternal - our soul and spirit will never die. Our spirits - the essence of who we are - will live forever!

Dealing with Death - No greater Love
Dealing with death was not a problem for Adam and Eve-the first man and woman who ever lived. However, once they sinned against God, things changed. Dying was a result of Adam's sin of disobedience.

We may think of death as final, but there is no end in the plan of God. We are eternal beings in His sight. Have you ever wondered why, even though your body might be aging, you don't feel "older" inside? It's because your spirit is eternal. The Bible says that God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

God desires for us to spend eternity with Him, yet He has left that choice up to us. God has made all the provisions for us to be with Him forever. He has no greater love than His love for us.

Dealing with Death - What is the issue?
Dealing with death is largely influenced by what we think of Jesus Christ. It also affects where we will spend eternity. In His infinite love, God sent His Son Jesus to die for us. When we believe in Jesus Christ and that He died as payment for our sins, we are guaranteed eternal life with Him forever.

If you are a child of God, dying is a promotion. Do we want to be with God forever? Do we understand that the only other option is to be separated from Him forever? Jesus said, "…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).

How we respond to the gift of Jesus Christ will determine where we spend eternity. God the Father loves all His creation and He waits on high to bless and redeem us. Psalm 116:15 says, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." If we know Christ as our personal Savior, we need not fear dying. As for those we love, it becomes our responsibility as believers to pray for the salvation of those who do not know Him. For those who do, death is a celebration - a homecoming!

As we begin to think of ourselves as eternal beings, the realization that there is a future will help us cope with the present circumstances. We begin to ask specific questions concerning eternity. We will be separated from our earthly body and separated from loved ones? Will we see them again? How do we define separation? How do we deal with separation in life and in death? God has a plan for us here on earth. God has a plan for eternity - He reveals it to us.

Dealing with a mother's death - Will I see her again?

Dealing with a mother's death is one of the most emotional and painful experiences that the human condition may require us to do. To most children, the mother is the focus of a great part of their formation years.

Death is separation and when we are separated from a loved one such as a mother, the question always arises about whether or not we will see that departed one again. In dealing with a mother's death and indeed any separation caused by death, there is hope found in the Word of God. "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him"(1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). This speaks to the fact that those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior will return with Him.

The year before mom died, I sat with her and questioned her about her personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus. He answer was always confident and sure, "I am a sheep in Christ." She once gave me the following Scripture. "Far be it from you to do such a thing - to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25)

The comfort that I find in this passage is the phrase, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right." God looks upon the heart of man and He and He alone can judge their motives and attitudes. Therefore, I know my mother had the truth and I can have knowledge and serenity that accepted it. If she did not, then my Lord is still a just and loving God because she was given ample chance to do so. God is always just and righteous and He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The way for us to make sure our own reunion with those who have passed in faith before us is to make sure of our own salvation. Each of us needs to accept reconciliation with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. We can find comfort in the confidence born of faith that we will be "like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). And if we shall see Him, then we shall also see all those who have passed before us and who died with that same faith and confidence in His resurrection.

Lastly, the wonderful hope of heaven is the "no mores" that we will enjoy. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4). That comfort means we will not have any sorrow over those we may not see again. We do not understand the way it will be, but this promise is one that should bring the believer comfort in dealing with a mother's death. One day, if we trust in God, all the sorrow and the tears will be gone.


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