What Others Say

I am 96, live alone and appreciate every day.
Enjoy your column. God is good
Joe S.
League City, TX

Sunday, September 23, 2018

When Someone We Love Dies


Sooner or later we all ask the question, “If a man die, shall he live again?”  I was 29 when the question became personal.   I sat beside the grave where they would lower the body of my father.  A few days before I held his hand as he drew his last breath.  My mind was flooded with memories of his smiling face, his laughter, his hand upon my shoulder encouraging me.  He held me as an infant, steadied my first steps as a toddler, taught me to ride a bike, coached my Little League baseball team, took me water skiing and fishing and encouraged me as I entered the ministry.  And now his body lay still and unresponsive in the casket about to be lowered into the earth.

There have been others: my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, my wife’s brothers, my college roommate and, in 2011, my mother.  The longer we live the longer the list grows.  When we are young death comes as a shock, an unexpected intruder, a thief.  But the older we become the more we accept it and expect it.  But the question persists: “If a man die, shall he live again?”

It is one of the most important questions we can ask.  The answer to that question can either plunge us into despair and hopelessness, or it can elevate us to new purpose and expectation.  If there is life beyond the grave then life on this earth makes sense.  Sacrifice and suffering are worth it.  Doing what is right when it goes against our self-interest is worth it.

Job was among the first to ask the question, “If a man die shall he live again.”  And, in the midst of his suffering he found the answer:

“Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! That with an iron stylus and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.” (Job 19:23-37).

It was this confidence in life beyond the grave that set apart the early followers of Christ.  It is this confidence that has set apart believers of all ages.  John wrote, “These things have I written that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13).  

Paul concluded: “But when this perishable will have put on [v]the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.  death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;  but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no  man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”  (John 10:28-29).

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