This past week a very dear friend of ours passed away unexpectedly. It happened right at the same time that my dad was fighting for his life in a covid unit. My dad is now much improved and we are giving thanks to God for saving his life. But, that opens a giant can of worms. How do you give God glory for saving someone, healing them, and then at the same time have an incident where God did not save. Did not heal.
I have had quite a few Christian friends who have lost loved ones during this pandemic. And it seems like we have to be really careful how we speak. Saying that God really loved your sick family member and that is why he healed them and they got better…it just seems to imply that God did NOT love those who died. And we know that is not true.
And so I sit here and wonder, how do we give glory to God for the times that he has healed, without inflicting wounds on those who did not get the healing they needed.
I feel like I need to pull back a bit and look at the big picture. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question, “What is man’s primary purpose?” and the answer is, “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” I think we have a hard time holding onto that purpose.
If we are honest, we would say that we are here to enjoy our families and friends. We are here to enjoy and explore the earth. We are here to serve other people. We are here to enjoy the pursuit of happiness. I don’t think glorifying God and enjoying him forever are something we think about a whole lot. If we’re being honest.
And if you look at the reasons we think we are here: loved ones, adventure, service, happiness; then death does not make sense. It cuts all of that off. It is the end of all those things. It’s also the end of us enjoying the person who has died. And that just sounds horrible.
Death was not part of God’s original Garden of Eden Plan. Death entered in with sin. And it wasn’t until Jesus came and made things right that we really had anything positive to say about death. Now death means that we are present with God. (Spoiler alert: Revelation tells us that one day Jesus will bring an end to death too.)
When a believer dies they have fulfilled their ultimate purpose. They are now with God, face to face, glorifying him and enjoying him forever. When we mourn, we are mourning for ourselves. Our loss. We are the ones suffering. Not our beloved who has passed away from this life into a glorious reunion with Jesus. Knowing this does not diminish our pain or shorten our time of mourning. But maybe it can change the way we talk, the way we view healing versus death.
Death is not something we seek after. After all, God has put us on this earth for a period of time, and he has things he wants us to do while we are here (Ephesians 2:10). God is the only one who knows when that time is up. And according to Psalm 139:16 the number of our days were decided long before we were born. While healing prolongs our time here on earth, so that we can fulfill God’s plans for our lives, death ushers us into our ultimate purpose, to glorify and enjoy God.
Despite all this head knowledge, it doesn’t make it easier to accept the loss of my friend. And I counted him as a close friend, and I think most people who knew him also considered him a close friend. It was because he was genuinely interested in every person he talked to. He gave his full attention, asked questions, remembered past details. When he talked to you, you felt seen and important. I can’t imagine our church without him and all the creativity and imagination he brought to any project he tackled.
While I know that he is in heaven enjoying God, I know that his family and friends are without him. And that is a tragedy. And while I know that one day, it will all make sense. I know that it doesn’t today. And I’m angry at the suffering. And I’m heartbroken at the pain. And life seems upside down and backwards.
Blessed are those who mourn. For they will be comforted.
God comfort us.