When I was growing up, our family would sometimes take a Sunday drive in the afternoon, either to visit relatives or just for fun. The two older siblings would share the back seat and I, being the youngest, would sit on the floor board on either side of “the hump”. While driving around, we would pass several familiar sites including cemeteries. Invariably, one of us would smugly state, “people are just dying to get in there!” followed by an instant head turn from mom, a disapproving glare followed by a chiding comment of how we shouldn’t disrespect the dead. All the while, we siblings would respond with satisfied smiles and quiet giggles.
As I look back, that comment seemed so funny at the time but certainly less so as I get older. For in youth, a day seems like an eternity but as the stark reality of midlife adulthood creeps in, you begin to experience the sting of death as you lose loved ones and soon acknowledge that your own life is but a mere vapor in the wind. Sounds pretty morbid, huh? Well, it depends on your perspective.
You see, there are many differing views about death and if there is “life on the other side”. Some believe there is simply nothing after death, the light switch is merely set to the “off” position and you become a buffet for all sorts of creepy crawlers. If that was the case, I guess I would have an epitaph that reads, “I was serious about life but now I’m just a fungi”…Others believe that you are reincarnated as another creature or human depending on how good or bad you were in your previous life. I guess if you came back as a dung beetle, you could easily figure out why…Still others believe they will be rewarded in paradise by what they did on earth; their reward being measured by the number of virgins they receive in paradise based on how much they pleased their God. I wonder if their hell was also based on something similar but they quickly ran out of virgins and would have to support all of them for eternity…
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to make light of death as much as bring a different perspective to light. Death is part of life; “From ashes to ashes, dust to dust; we came from the earth and to return we must”. We mourn those we have lost because we miss them terribly; there is a huge gaping hole left in our heart that only God can heal. But for the followers of Christ, there is a hope that extends beyond the grave. John 3:16 (NIV) states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 14:2-3 (NIV) reflects, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” If I truly trust God’s word in its’ entirety, then there really is a concrete hope that we can hold on to, not only that we will see our loved ones again that trusted in Jesus, but we will live eternally with Christ!
And so we hold on to that very hope and truth as we go about our day to day lives; knowing that it is not about when or how we die but actually how we live and Who we live for in this life that makes an eternal difference in the next. That’s why it is so vitally important that we know the One who created us, who loves us more than we could ever imagine; being a living testimony of Christ in us until the day comes when we take our last breath. I will then be in peace and at peace, one of the grateful dead. For having lived and being loved in life, I must then await my final judgment but knowing I have an advocate with my Father.
My only hesitancy in death is leaving my loved ones in pain and grief. For as I know from pain filled experience, there is a peace to know your loved one is with the Lord but we humans have to deal with the emotional fall out of their passing and the huge void left in their place. But be comforted in the fact that we can be united once again. I Thessalonians 4:16-17 reads, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” When Christ returns, I can’t wait to be caught up with everyone else for that great reunion. I bet I won’t even have that fear of heights anymore. I’ll just be eternally grateful for the grace given to a wretch like me.