A singer whose inimitable voice was very much a part of the soundtrack of my youth; two babies and a grandfather, loved by folks in our congregation; a long-serving deacon in a sister church; a gospel minister whose story of perseverance, hope, and love for his daughter has been greatly moving to me – each one of them departed from this life in recent days.
Monday was the ten year anniversary of the death of a dear friend; a death which – both for the pain that it brought, and for the backdrop for God's kindness that it proved to be – left a deep imprint on my life. And then it was one year ago this coming Sunday that a man died whom I, from a distance, had come to consider as, in some ways, my pastor.
Some of them died tragically; others more ‘naturally’. Some are gone, as we say, ‘too soon’; others had lived full lives. But they are all gone, leaving gaps that cannot be humanly filled in the lives of those who loved them.
It’s a strange thing, death. So unnatural (when seen in the light of Genesis 1), and yet so inevitable in this now-fallen world. So certain, and yet still always so painful. So wrong, and yet so filled with significance:
Death should make us hate sin for having called down such a curse upon the world. Death should urge us to love others more deeply, who are with us only for a short while, in this life. Death should motivate us to be all the more urgent about making ready (and helping others make ready) for the life that is to come. And death should move us to love Christ who, out of love for His own, entered into death on their behalf, and defeated it for all who will call upon His name.
Let Him be our hope in the face of death – the hope we share with those around us who are facing death; our hope when we grieve the loss of our loved ones; our hope when we wade, with Bunyan’s pilgrim, through the river of death ourselves (knowing, in the words of Samuel Rutherford, that Jesus “knoweth all the fords”); and our hope for life beyond death, since He has died and risen on behalf of His people!
Let us reckon rightly with the reality of death, which is ever present all around us. Let us understand and accept its inevitability. Let us learn and apply its lessons. And let us look to Jesus in its face.