With 350 days left in 2014 we assume we will have tomorrow and the next day and the next - anticipated, possibly pressured filled days; relaxing, unstructured days; days to study, learn and earn and serve others in; days that we might continue living life in. The year lies before us - 350 days to be exact.
These are days we count on to do the things we were not able to do yesterday or last week or last month; days to serve God in here on earth; days to cherish the loved ones present and alive. We make assumptions.
But - will we have those days? We will most likely, we say, unless the Lord returns or unless He chooses to take me or you or someone you love HOME to be with him. We say those things and believe them but do not really think it will happen – at least not right now.
Abruptly four days before Christmas, my dear friend’s 53 year old son died suddenly in a freak ATV accident doing something he had done many times over – traveling on his property from his in-laws home to his own.
We were incredulous when we got the message. NO, this could not have happened. Shock sets in and then harsh reality begins to dominate one’s thoughts. As we entered into the huge, family grief of losing a son, a husband, a father and a grandfather we could hardly take in the amount of sorrow this kind of loss produces. How do you handle this? How does the family sort through all the questions, all the emotions, all the sadness and all the anger. Yes, Michael is with the Lord but, oh Lord, what about those of us who remain now bereft, now in shock?
In Psalm 139:13-16 we read “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Really? God ordained days? He is in charge and he chooses? While this is comforting, it takes a while to live into that reality. Was it His choice to take this incredibly gifted man home at this time in his life and the lives of his family?
“Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21
The pastor who conducted the service made reference to Psalm 22 and Psalm 23 being on the same page in his bible. Psalm 23 speaks of the Lord as our shepherd, leading us by quiet waters, nourishing and stilling our souls. In Psalm 22 the same writer cries out to God questioning Him, wondering why He is so far away, why He is not answering his groans and why He seems silent.
Somehow in articulating this seeming contradiction the pastor’s words gave the family and all those who came to celebrate Michael’s life permission to feel both extremes; to hold in tension the questions, the pain, the deep loss and sadness with the absolute delight and celebration that this beloved son, husband, father and grandfather was now rejoicing in the Presence of Christ. He was rejoicing AND was welcomed there by his mother who had gone before.
Death is like a wake up call to those of us who remain. It causes us to consider our own mortality. It causes us to realize the brevity of life. It offers us an invitation to adjust our priorities, to make adjustments, to live more soberly and intentionally and not to take for granted what we have. It causes us to be more thankful for the days we have, to enjoy them more, to expect God more and to embrace His agenda and His sovereignty.
The writer of James 4:14-15“You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, if the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.”
There are no easy answers to the loss sustained when a loved one is gone. But there is a Savior who knows, who sees, who cares and who promises “when you pass through the waters I will be with you, when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you; when you walk through the fire you will not be burned. For I am the Lord, your God…do not be afraid for I am with you.” Isaiah 43: 2-3,5.
God is the God of all comfort and we as those who accompany others in their grief can pray and be there with them until the day God calls us home.