God’s death angel was reaping last week – calling home those who loved God and for whom His purposes in life were complete.
We have four funerals to attend on Friday and Saturday of this week – time to remember and celebrate the lives of His faithful.
Four! We have never had that many at one time.
Not long ago, my brother-in-law asked me if I was to the point in life yet where we attended more funerals than weddings.
“No!” I had replied, horrified.
But as I reflected, I remembered that funerals are more than just grief - more than just aching with the loss of those we will not walk with again on this earth.
For those in Christ, they are also celebrations of new life in Him. Celebrations of eternal life, eternal hope, eternal joy. They are a rejoicing time. The suffering of our loved ones is over. We take a long look ahead to when we will see them again.
In truth, God’s death angel is reaping like this all the time – from all over the world. He rescues those who are suffering, in pain, sorrowing. God hears the cries of those longing for their eternal home, and he calls their soul out of its shell – shells that had once been whole and beautiful, but were now crumbling and frail.
It is mercy. Death for the believer is sheer, beautiful, loving mercy.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones.” Psalm 116:15
“Better is the day of our death than the day of our birth.” Ecclesiastes 7:1
I have contemplated the “work” of those whom God called home last week. Their job is now finished. Their purposes for this generation are sealed.
“Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:13
One of my friends was a teacher. She gathered the hearts of her children like flowers and she treasured them. These children are all adults now, left to carry on her torch.
Another was a missionary with Intervarsity when she was young, and for her entire life her missional heart loved those around her with the love of Christ.
My red headed friend was passionate about God and family. She loved deeply and fought hard, but in the end, she trusted her dearest treasures to God – a teenage son, a fiancé, young nephews, a brother, a mama. She goes before them into eternity, and she will one day help welcome them home.
The fourth funeral we will attend this week is the sibling of a young friend of ours – life taken before its time – twenty years old.
These younger lives have hit the hardest, perhaps. We question God. Do we dare question God? I believe God would rather have us dialogue with Him about our questions than closed up and silent about our pain.
God does give us simple answers, though no specific ones about why he calls the young out of their earthly home. He says things like:
“Better is one day in my courts than a thousand elsewhere.” Psalm 84:10
When God calls a young one home, they do not have to face the sorrows of earth any longer. One time my sister was grieving over the fact that a loved one would never again smell flowers on the earth. I smiled and reminded her that heaven was far better than anything we could imagine – far better than flowers on earth. “Of course!” she said, and we laughed together. How easy it is to forget the joy of those who go before us when we are in the hurricane of our own grief.
“You turn people back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, you mortals.’ A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night . . .People are like new grass of the morning; in the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. ” Psalm 90:3-4
Time is earthly, bound, and linear for us. Time is of no essence to God. While we sorrow over the years until we will see our loved ones again, perhaps they are now on God’s time where one thousand years is like a day. They look at their eternal watches and declare, “My loved ones will be home for lunch!”
I remember the brevity of life on earth in light of eternity:
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." James 4:14
"Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble. They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure." Job 14:1-2
My response to that is to make the most of every day here on earth – to seek to fulfill the purposes that God has for me here – and to keep my eyes focused on eternity where there is no more sorrow, no more pain, and no more tears.
“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. O Lord, come back to us! How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful.” Psalm 9-: 12-17
So for those who have gone before me, while we struggle with our sorrows, we revel in your joy, and we look forward to what is to come:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout form the throne saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear form their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” Revelation 21
We celebrate your joy - our friends now gone from earth and home with the Lord. We will carry on the work here on earth, and we will see you soon!