Faith General

Dying Too Soon

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My mother-in-law died. She was 91. Her bout with dementia finally took her feeble 83-pound body. 

Living in another country, we started the funeral planning process from 1500 miles away; texting and emails at first, then a phone call here or there. Flights were booked, Airbnb reserved, and coordinated with our adult children and their families. Friends from my wife’s hometown area stepped up to fill in the gaps where we could not. We met with the funeral director to finalize plans and selected a casket. Talking with the pastor to plan the service our family would help lead. Writing an obituary. Going through her belongings from the nursing home. Meeting with the attorney and the monument company. I won’t say it’s fun but it is something a man commits to when he marries. 

One phone call on a Monday with the news my mother-in-law died and my entire week was turned upside down.  That is NOT a complaint but a reality!  I mentioned to some guys at work that from a human perspective death is never scheduled; it’s an interruption. Yet from God’s perspective, every moment of our lives is ordained by His hand. Our birth date, our death date, God knows it all. So, from His perspective, my mother-in-law died precisely when He wanted her home in heaven.

Not everyone goes to heaven. You know that right?  Somehow, we humans have this fickle idea that we can live as we want our entire lives, with total disregard for Jesus. Then, upon death, we want the local pastor to bless our human existence, bestow only good memories, and give those in the audience some assurance we are in heaven.  I wonder how many lies are told at funerals these days?

On the other hand, God is very clear in His Word that those who trust in Jesus Christ are saved for eternity. Growing that conversational relationship with Jesus this side of our casket is evidence we are saved. 

When I was ten, my grandmother died. She was only 58. I thought she was ancient, but now I realize that was very young.  When I was 16, my good friend, Kevin, was killed in a car-train accident. Sixteen-year-olds aren’t supposed to die!  My other grandmother died at age 80. I was 19 at the time. I recall sleeping on the floor of my grandparent’s house the night before the funeral; or should I say not sleeping at all. Although I was saved, death scared me. 

My mom was 69 when she passed away from cancer. I met the paramedics at her house. They could not resuscitate her. My dad died suddenly at age 79. I found him two days later. Truth is any age is too young to die; even at 91.  Why? God set eternity in our hearts. We were initially created to live forever. Adam and Eve saw to it that a deathless eternity was a thing of the past.

Sin sent each of us into a cycle of birth and death. Jesus changed all that. Though our bodies will still die, we are promised an eternal presence with Jesus on both sides of the grave, for those who trust in Him. For those who don’t, a Christ-less eternity awaits. (Giving lip service to Jesus is not the same as trusting Him.)

Yes, even Jesus-loving people face death.  Unless Jesus comes before you physically die, your body will cease breathing. Someone will call 911 or the funeral home. A doctor or coroner will pronounce you dead. The circumstances surrounding your death may be anticipated or unexpected. If they have a service for you, your entire life will be summed up in about an hour or less. The bottom line is what message, what legacy will your life leave?  Will they mention your long hours at work? Will they mention the cars you drove or the money in your accounts? Or, will they mention the relationships you had, the underlying character of your life and the pursuits you championed?  Will your life have any hint of Jesus at all?

Jesus died and yet His death and resurrection assure us that we who are in Him will also live again. Enough to say Christians really don’t die.  The Bible reminds us that for those found in Christ, by faith, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. And, His love for us is constant in both life and death.

In this life, we see dimly, but then we will see clearly and know as we are fully known and loved.

I’ll miss my in-laws. I couldn’t have asked for better ones! My father-in-law filled in a lot of manly gaps for me over the decades. I loved how I could get a friendly rise out of my mother-in-law! In both of them, I could see Jesus. My faith is more sure because of them.

We drove past the cemetery the night before we flew out. The valley where she is buried next to my father-in-law is on a quiet country road surrounded by beautiful, lush wooded hills. Another generation has passed on. Will they be the last generation to live for Jesus in that family line or will Christ be seen in me and my family?

Perhaps life is full of adventures for you right now. Death is the furthest thing from your mind. Before any of us expect to live a long life, think again. Living for Christ today will impact tomorrow. 

What will they say about you at your funeral?

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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