It was a week of contrast for us at CCC over the Easter week. We celebrated new life with baptisms and mourned the death of a friend of our church. We had plenty of times of joy and grief intermingled together in a special week. I don't know when Easter has ever been so real to me. I had no idea death would come so close to us at Easter when I planned my series "The Curse and the Cure", but God is always ahead of us in the place we are not yet.
That's worth repeating: God is always ahead of us in the place we are not yet.
Mark Twain wrote this about death as he faced his own mortality: "A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps up on them; infirmities follow; those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned into aching grief. When the 'release' comes at last -- the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them -- they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence, a world which will lament them for a day and forget them forever."
Mr. Twain, I respectfully disagree. We don't succumb to such negative affectivity. We don't bury our dead and forget them. We commit them to God in Whose presence life continues!
There are a lot of reasons why we fear death: we fear how we are going to die. We have regrets about the life we lived. The fear the loss and absence that comes from the separation. We are anxious about the unknown on the other side of it. And sometimes we are not at peace with God.
For the believer in Christ, the lynchpin of our faith rests on the resurrection of Jesus -- overcoming death. Did they really think the One who created life could stay dead? You cannot kill God. You cannot extinguish the breath of God. You cannot destroy the one who belongs to God. You cannot thwart what God has planned for those who love him. Death simply cannot be the end; it is impossible.
Our family has an adopted dog named Poudre. He was a rescue dog. My wife and I went to the shelter to adopt a dog for me to have as a trail dog, a hiking companion. I picked him out, I paid for him (and saved his life, I might add). And what did he do in return? He chose my wife! It's her dog. I'm pretty sure he hates me (the feeling might be mutual).
Poudre has a 6th sense about Brenda. When she is gone, he mopes. He won't eat, he won't play, and he won't do anything at all. He spends his hours or days in a lifeless, empty existence as if his world has ended. Then suddenly, he will spring up like a puppy chasing a squirrel and run to the door with his tail wagging so hard his butt is knocking over small children. He can't see what's on the other side of the door, but he knows who is on the other side. It is his Brenda.
He just knows whose on the other side.
We just know.
There may be a lot of unknowns for us at death, but we know enough to be hopeful. God is there, and He is good! It's hard to look at death as victory because we're looking at it from the side of loss and grief). But on the other side, we will see it all clearly.
"Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory?" Life has the final word; the One who created life ensures it.
Christ is risen!