I recently had a minor encounter with a woman on Facebook, which unbeknownst to me at the time, had an underlying theme of, or about, death. What happened was some random stranger, to me, posted; “Christmas is going to suck this year.” My response was; “Celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus, can never “suck,” because God so loved us all that we celebrate this day as the day Jesus was born to come to earth to save each and every one of us.” I added a microphone drop emoji because I believe my/this statement is an absolute which no one can challenge.
Now you might be saying, perhaps I should have asked what the women meant, first, but I was more concerned with her bold statement so I responded as such. Another woman, I assume a friend or family member, responded to my comment with an emphatic “AMEN” but then went on to chastise me for making improper assumptions and responding so insensitively. Well, it seems the woman making the original post had recently (I don’t know how recent – I’m guessing) lost her parents and missing them at Christmas in her words made Christmas “Suck.” So, I guess I feel a tiny bit bad about my role in this but I strongly stand by my statement and the fact that I could not have “assumed” her intent, as it was not clearly stated, as such.
I tell you all of this because Death can, and often does, have some seriously consuming thoughts and effects. Death, and even the thought of impending death, can have crippling effects – there is no question. I understand and have compassion for the woman who thinks it “sucks” to face Christmas without her loved ones – we all do. My family lost both my father-in-law and mother-in-law within 24 hours of Christmas day, on separate occasions, so yes, I emphatically understand. Tears and sadness abound at gravesites, funeral homes, and around the hospital and nursing home beds of people whose final moments are near. I get it – I’m not so insensitive that I don’t understand, appreciate, and greave along with all of us who have lost a loved one.
When I was just 12 years old, I lost my lifelong friend David Wall, who was struck and killed by a passing car while trying to assist his dad changing a tire along a rural county road. At that time, I had recently been to my great grandparents’ funerals and after seeing how depressing and horribly saddened everyone was, I refused to go to David’s funeral, because I didn’t want to be that sad and depressed. Since that day, I have made myself sad for not attending his funeral. But not because I wanted to be consumed by sadness or death, but more because I wanted to celebrate his all too brief life and say goodbye to him, or should I say, to his humanly body.
As much as these pains bring sadness and sorrow along with the remembrances of days gone past, death is not the end. But if we let death consume us, the pain and misery we inflict upon ourselves, when surrounded by the consuming thought of death, it could very well “END” any chance we have for enjoying and living our remaining days and cherishing and embracing our relationships with our families and friends.
Death is not the end – I can’t say that enough! It is simply another step in life. If we are believers and we have committed our life to Jesus, then death is the step when we leave our human flawed and sinful body, and go upwards to heaven to be rewarded by God. The step when we will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us. A step where our suffering and pain will no longer exist. No more disease, anger, ugliness, grief, despair, animosity, anxiety, stress, nor fear.
Death should be, and needs to be, a celebration of life. We are so very saddened when death approaches…BECAUSE…we so loved and cherished our time with this person. So yes, we are sad, but shouldn’t our primary emotion be happiness and appreciation. Shouldn’t we celebrate the time we had together on this earth with that person? Shouldn’t their passing refresh all those great memories and occasions that we enjoyed with this person. Finally, and most importantly, shouldn’t we be happy for them as they are now free from all the troubles of life and now have been so justly rewarded by God to be in heaven with Jesus?
I know it’s not always as simple as I state it, but many cultures do treat one’s passing as a celebration. I’ve been to several funerals in predominantly African American communities and those funerals were far more a celebration of life and a huge giving of thanks that their loved one’s have gone to heaven. Of course, there was a bit of sadness, but I believe they got it right when it came to saying goodbye to their loved ones.
Why do we let death consume us this way and why do we seem to embrace the sorrow? Do we just want to feel bad or let tragedy impact us? I would think not - but based on how, we as a culture, seem to always go to the sadness and tragedy “card,” one does have to wonder. We have a friend who lost her husband early on in their marriage, and she has let this loss consume her life and she has never been the same since, some 30-40 years later. But this is not what God wants for us nor does it honor His love to stop living because someone has left us. When a Christian loved one dies, we mourn, but we should not mourn as the world does for the simple reason that we have an eternal hope that the world does not have. First Thessalonians 4:13–18 reminds us that death is not the end for those who are in Christ and that our mourning is temporary. Mourning is not pleasant, but it is a part of life. Those who know Jesus look forward to the day when “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17; cf. 21:4; Isaiah 35:10).
This is all summarized quite well in the recent hit song from one of my favorite Christian Artists; Casting Crowns. The song is called “Scars in Heaven.” I have shared this song with many who have recently experienced loss, and they thank me but go on to say it’s far too sad. While I understand this view, as I’ve stated previously, I could not disagree more. There are three key refrains that people apparently miss, when listening to this tune, that are absolutely essential to the message.
This first refrain is this: But I know you're in a place where all your wounds have been erased And knowing yours are healed is healing mine. Not only is the song writer saying their pain and suffering is no more – HALLELUJAH – but they are also noting that because their pain and suffering is gone, then the event of their passing has also healed the love one who is still here an earth. The song writer gets it. I know this because he follows this refrain with the following; “Oh, but now you're standing in the sun, you've fought your fight and your race is run The pain is all a million miles away.” AMEN!
The final refrain that is critical is this; “Until I'm standing with you in the sun, I'll fight this fight and this race I'll run, Until I finally see what you can see. The song writer is telling us that they will continue to live their life, do their very best, just like the loved one who’s been lost, but then they will meet again in heaven. The song concludes with the repeating theme; “the thought that makes me smile now, even as the tears fall down, Is that the only scars in heaven are on the hands that hold you now.” The message being that yes, there is sadness, but that sadness is now gone because the departed is now in the hands of Jesus. But most importantly, we cannot miss the fact that those hands of Jesus, are the only hands that remain scarred. Because it is Jesus’s scars and sacrifice on the cross, that allow us to be in heaven with Him and in His loving hands.
The loss of a loved one can be very depressing, or it can be a celebration. We can let death consume us, or we can live life knowing we will see our loved one’s again. It’s easy for us to better understand this the older we get. The advancing age for most of us makes us more understanding and mature. But because I know Jesus, regardless of my age, I have life. The Apostle John recounts Jesus comforting Martha and Mary on the death of Lazarus, in John 11:25-26. John writes; Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”
The Apostle Paul reminds us, in his letters to Philippi; Philippians 1:21 “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”
Don’t let death consume you, as it is only one step to everlasting life. Thanks to God and His Son Jesus.