I was hoping when 2018 opened its door that death would not overshadow the excitement of new beginnings. But, in spite of the fresh, new beginning, within the first four weeks, four souls I've known have exited this world and entered their eternal surroundings.
Life and death are inevitable on earth.
And, until Jesus returns, death will be the portal into our out-of-this-world, forever home.
My parents never sheltered me from the hard of life, death especially, and for that, I'm forever grateful. I can't even remember the first funeral I attended, but I do remember how the lives we celebrated powerfully impacted my perspective on life growing up. From teenagers who committed suicide, to friends killed in car accidents, to teachers who lost their fight to cancer, and grandparents who just withered away naturally, death leaves behind no rhyme or reason.
Throughout my life, death has continued to teach me much about living. My familiar place to reflect on life is on the piano bench at our church. I've been playing or singing (or both) for all kinds of services and life events for over 40 years, but funerals have always been a unique place of ministry for me. Even for my dad and mom's celebrations, I played and sang. My heart spills onto the keys and, through the music, I seek to bring healing and comfort to hurting people as well as praise to God, the Giver of life. Being asked to be a part of so many home-going celebrations has been my honor. Serving in this way provides a fresh perspective on what really matters, and gives me time to reflect on how I'm living my one life.
A shadow of grief looms over us when someone we know and love leaves this earth. It presses in hard on the reserved space in our hearts where we hold them dear. We feel lost without their physical presence, but God walks with us through our grief and holds our hand with His comfort, hurting with us as we cling to all that's left - the sweet memories.
God has given us a wonderful gift of remembering. Whenever we choose, we can reach down deep into that sacred space and draw from a well of cherished memories. God also gives us tears to cry, helping to empty our hearts of the pain and sorrow, and as He catches every tear that falls, He holds them close to His heart of holy compassion.
Memories of joy.
Tears of sorrow.
God's tender touch helps us maneuver in and out of the shadows.
In the midst of grief, God also brings eternal hope. He gently calls us to focus on His Light, His Son. Christ, our Hope, illuminates the dark with light, and tramples death with life everlasting.
Death could not thwart God's redemption plan, therefore we are redeemed!
Death could not defeat Christ, therefore it will not defeat us!
Death's grave could not hold Christ, and it will not take hold of us!
Death has lost. Life has won!
We have Christ's promise and hope of being fully restored and wholly healed. All of those tears we've cried on earth? Every one of them will be wiped away. Praise God!
He has called us to live fully in His Light even in the shadow of death. For in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11), every moment of every day, and that's where we, His people, are to remain - in the light of His presence.
How has the shadow of death impacted your living for Christ?