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The Last Mile of Life

My stepfather passed into glory three weeks ago. He and my mom were married for 30 years. While I’m thankful he no longer suffers, my soul weighs heavy. The last mile of life wrenches the hearts of those left behind. How can we move forward when we struggle to endure the dark waters of mourning and loss? My stepfather trusted Jesus and I know he’s on glory’s side now. But I still mourn, especially for my mom.

Everyone faces life and death crossroads, and everyone’s experiences differ. This year in particular has impacted many of us as we or a loved one walk the last mile of life. Today my emotions remain raw while this season of incredible loss for me and my family wears on. I don’t have facts and figures to try to make sense of it all. Instead, I’d like to share a few thoughts from my heart.

Advocate for someone in need. Several times in the last year, through hospitalization and hospice, my role became that of advocate for my stepfather. When you advocate for someone who is helpless, you’ll never be the same. I will never be the same. My love grew deep as my heart broke for him over and over through each painful episode. In his pain and suffering, I stood with and for him. Friends, if you have the opportunity to advocate for someone in need, don’t shy away.

Show kindness. Last week, we also said goodbye to my 16-year-old boxer pup. Beloved companions epitomize unconditional love and bless us each day. When they pass on it breaks us. A few days ago, a couple of our neighbors––who I only knew in passing as we walked our dogs––came to my house with a sweet card and a bouquet of flowers. Their effort in expressing understanding of grief, and letting us know we aren’t alone, demonstrated the type of one-another love that Jesus extended throughout His ministry. Friends, if you have the opportunity to show kindness in a simple way, take the time to bless someone who is hurting.

Stand in the gap through prayer. We know that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than our own, and we may never understand the “why’s” of life this side of heaven. But even when we don’t know what to say or how to help, we can support others––by standing in the gap for them through prayer. Prayer is powerful. Prayer unites our hearts with Jesus and with those in need. And prayer allows the Holy Spirit to prompt us to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world. Friends, even if you don’t know what to say to someone in need, let them know you’re praying for them. Go before God the Father on their behalf and ask the Holy Spirit to use words you may lack.

For anyone mourning or struggling to find hope, know that you’re not alone. I’m standing with you in prayer. I encourage you to read and pray through the following three passages which I’ve been clinging to. I prayed these passages over my stepfather day after day until Jesus took him home. In these dark times, Jesus and His Word bring peace, hope, and comfort.

John 14:1-7

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me so that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”

2 Timothy 4:6–8

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day––and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.

Revelation 21:3–5

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is now among people, and He will dwell with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

We may or may not have the honor of being by someone’s side as they cross the finish line in their last mile of life. But we can always stand with them and cheer for them in spirit as they press on into glory. May the assurance of everlasting life in Christ bring you, your family, and your beloved friends peace, hope, and comfort today. And if you’re not sure about your eternal future, turn to Jesus today and receive His give of eternal life (John 3:16). You don’t have to say the perfect words; God wants to hear your heart. Humbly pray something like, “Jesus, I’m in need of a Savior. I want You to be Lord of my life. I believe You came and died for all of my sins––past, present and future. So I come before You now, asking Your forgiveness and receiving Your gift of everlasting life. Live in me from this moment on by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Love through me in this world until You return to take me home.” Amen!

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Joy Dahl

Dr. Joy Dahl is a Jesus girl transformed by God’s grace. Through many trials she has learned to rise above the depths of real life by holding fast to truth and hope. Today Joy passionately helps believers embrace their calling as Christ’s ambassadors in the world. Much of Joy’s career has focused on startup and high-growth companies in Washington, D.C. and New York, and for 10 years she provided Chief Financial Officer services through her consulting practice. Joy earned three degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary: Master of Christian Education, Master of Biblical Studies, and Doctor of Ministry. Her emphasis on the integration of faith and work led to her current role as Executive Director of Polished Network, an organization which gathers professional women to navigate career and explore faith together. Joy and her husband, Gordon, now call Dallas home. Joy’s favorite things include: God's Word, international travel, dark chocolate, horses, flowers, beach getaways, running, big dogs, and adventure!

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