Last night, because I was too tired to do anything else, I plunked myself in front of the television and watched an episode of ER, a show I’ve not seen for years.
In this episode, one of the hospital team members died. After the funeral, the ER staff gathered at a local bar to remember his life. They were sad and struggling. Death cast a shadow over them.
How different this scene was from the Christian funerals I’ve attended. I’ll never forget the first one. Irene was my mentor and her husband died. I was a new Christian, worried that God was going to ‘send me to Borneo’ or ask me to do something I didn’t want to do. At the funeral, I watched Irene lean over the grave, almost as if she wanted to jump in after her husband. My heart was pounding. Then she turned around.
Irene’s face shone. She was filled with joy, totally at peace with what was happening. I was astounded. At that same moment, God spoke to my heart. If I can give her joy at this moment, why are you worried about what I might ask of you? Even now as I recall this event from more than thirty-five years ago, I feel the same awe at God as I did then.
Irene explained. She knew where her husband had gone and she knew she would join him later. She even said, “The main reason for being sad is that I feel sorry for myself. If I think of him and what he is now enjoying, I cannot be sad.”
I’ve attended many funerals since then. When a Christian dies, the family is sorrowful because they miss the one who has left this earth, yet our hope is so real that we cannot help but be glad that our loved ones have been ‘promoted’ and are waiting for us in glory.
Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” Because we know that Jesus is alive, we do not grieve the same way as others who do not know Him and have the same hope.
In Luke before Jesus came, the father of John the Baptist prophesied about his son. He said, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Jesus came to give light to those who sit in the shadow of death and in the darkness of not knowing what will happen to them after death. He came to direct those in darkness into a place of peace with God. By taking the wrath of God and our punishment for sin upon Himself, we can know that God loves us; we do not have to fear His judgment.
Jesus also came to direct us into having the peace of God. This is a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), a peace that floods our hearts and minds and gives us deep joy. The light He gives opens our eyes to His love for us. We know He cares and we know that He is in control—even at funerals.
~ Elsie Montgomery
NOTE: My post was due the 24th, but with ICWF Fall Conference starting today, things are a tad busy around here. This is today's post from my blog, so another apology to those who read both. At least the topic is something worth hearing about more than once!