Death, Grief, and Incredible Hope
by Joseph Franks
The furious storms of life, at one time or another, fall upon every single sailor. However, depending upon the size and stability of one’s particular sailing vessel, the experience of a troubled sailor greatly differs.
For example, when the furious storms of life fall upon one within a small boat, all seems lost. The wind and waves take control of the vessel. Sailors on such a boat find themselves mercilessly tossed back and forth. All personal belongings and luxuries are deemed vain, useless, and discardable. And soon, hope for a better tomorrow flies away and fear takes its place.
However, when a sailor is found aboard a massive ship, though the same ferocious storms of life are experienced, hope is not lost. The stable ship may teeter and totter. Those aboard may find themselves uncomfortable and sick. However, through it all, there is a confident peace knowing this storm is only for a season. The ship will pass through, and calmer waters will be experienced over the horizon.
My friends, one storm in life that we all face is death. It comes to one and all, and with it comes incredible pain. Sooner or later, the “house of mourning” is visited by everyone, and serious grieving is the natural, normal, and acceptable experience.
But while all men experience grief, not all men experience grief identically. There is a difference between those in the boat of their own making, and those in the ship of Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
My mother-in-law, Barbara Evans, passed away at 7:45 am this morning. She was a woman who loved Christ, her husband, her family, her neighbor, and especially those who were hurting. Though she was not a woman of incredible financial means, she was one of the most generous souls I have ever met. She was a tiny woman, but she had a huge heart, and though she struggled with poor health for most of her life (rheumatoid arthritis and its effects), she had a bold spirit; Mama Evans was a fighter. But today, her soul is disconnected from her body; her earthly journey is no more. That being said, today, our family mourns. It hurts horribly to see a loved one go. We are grieving … but not like those who do not know Jesus.
Jesus Christ wrote Barbara Evans name in the Book of Life; he did so before the beginning of the world.
Jesus Christ, seeing her upcoming sin, came to earth and died on the cross for 100% of her sins. There was no sin left untreated. All were cast into the Sea of Forgetfulness. He also pledged to her his robe of righteousness. When the Heavenly Father looked at Mama Evans, all he saw was the pristine righteousness of Christ. She was declared to be holy due to the atoning work of her Savior.
Jesus Christ custom-created Barbara Evans in the manner he deemed best. She was his special creation made in his image.
Jesus Christ sent his Holy Spirit to draw her to him. He allowed her to hear the Gospel with her ears, and he allowed her to crave the Gospel from her heart. She heard, believed, repented, and placed her faith in Jesus. Barbara Evans was born-again.
Jesus Christ led in discipling her. He would not leave her be, but slowly transformed her more and more into the image of Jesus. As she matured, she looked more like her Heavenly Groom.
And now, Jesus Christ has ended her suffering and pain. Her pre-ordained days have come to an end, and for her, there is no more discipleship needed.
She is without pain, tears, sorrow, or dread.
She is without hostile neighbors seeking to do her wrong. Her world suffers from no curse.
She is test-driving a new, improved, and perfect body.
She is already using her new vocal chords to sing “Hallelujah” to the Lamb.
She has a daily appointment to dine with the Lord at his feast, and she is the guest of honor — for she is the bride.
She is sinless. Her existence is characterized by perfect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and perfect self-control.
She misses not her loved ones on earth, for a thousand years is as a day for her. She knows she will feast with them in due time.
Again, though she does not grieve, we do, but not like those who know not Christ.
And one day, our ship will pass through this storm and we will experience the blissful peace of heaven over the horizon. For one day, the “Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
Therefore, today, right now, it is my hope to “encourage one another with these words.”