Some of you may have experienced those more rare moments in life when you literally feel like you can't breathe, when everything in and around you crashes, when grief in unimaginable measure throws an unexpected blow and knocks you to the ground. It's a moment you can't conceive until you're in it, and with all your might, you wish you could turn back time and somehow make it all different. But you're helpless for change, though you literally groan for it.
I can't wrap adequate words around that moment when I received the phone call that told me that my dad was gone. It was a nightmare that still stings, that still brings tears, that still causes an ache to pulse in sudden moments as sweet memories of his life and pained memories of his death run together, hemorrhaging out of a broken heart.
I'm finding, in a really up close way, that grief truly is a journey, and I've been walking it a day at a time.
But that one-day-at-a-time, one-step-at-a-time journey is challenged by the fast-paced swirl of "normal life." We're still trying to catch our breath, but our busy schedules press; the spinning world that we wish would stop for just a few minutes, won't; that accusing inner-voice relates hurry-up-and-get-yourself-together whispers to our tired hearts.
The daily grind pulls us forward to where we're not ready to go yet, tries to hurry us along that journey of grief, pushes us to run laps our legs are still too weary to run.
Even some religious voices tell us to stop weeping and "Rejoice!" because our loved one is in heaven. But for those of you who've mourned the death of one you love, you know that rejoicing is not the path your heart immediately, fully steps onto. You're broken in a way that sometimes feels almost beyond repair, and rather than clapping, "He's in heaven!" you're instead throbbing under the crushing reality, "He's not here. O God, he's not here anymore."
The reality is, we can't hurry out of grief. We can't go around it. We can't go under or over it. We have to go through it. And our beautiful Lord, who is near to the brokenhearted, is waiting to take hold of our hands and lead us through that dark, dark valley.
We've got to go through it, but we don't have to go alone. The road is grievous, and those pressures within and without urge us to move along and get on with our lives. Quickly.
But in the midst of a spinning world and a full schedule and lots of voices ... take a breath.
If we try to skip ahead to a celebration or stuff the ache, we're attempting to force our emotions into an unnatural place.
Because death is meant to be mourned. It is sorrow upon sorrow, as Paul wrote. It's an earth-trembling, heart-shaking reality, and it's right to feel the sting of it ... because it is so wrong to our God.
It's not a part of His kingdom. And when His dwelling is finally among us again, His all-consuming, magnificently invasive light will leave no room for sorrow, crying, pain, or death. He's kicking all of those things out—because He never wanted them thrashing through His creation in the first place.
When the widow at Nain lost her son, Jesus didn't pass by the man's coffin and simply say, "It was just his time to go ..." No. Jesus, moved with compassion, demonstrated how He felt about death, and He foreshadowed what He would ultimately do about this painful reality that has gripped humanity. He brought the widow's son back to life.
Our Lord hates death, too. So much that He went to unfathomable lengths to destroy it.
And He succeeded.
And now, gloriously, death is not the end for those who are in Christ. Because He broke the grave open, we who have joined our lives to the heart of the Living One hold confidence in God's promise of our resurrection.
The dead in Christ will rise — and when this mystery collides with the pounding ache we feel over death, gratitude becomes explosive.
We'll breathe our last ... but we'll never die. We celebrate the hope of a coming day when Jesus will utterly demolish death. Totally. Once and for all.
But for now, in this present age, death still has measures of victory—because people are still dying. Hospitals are still receiving the terminally ill and fatally wounded, babies are still dying in the womb, poor ones are still perishing in starvation and for lack of clean water, the innocent are still slain at the hands of unjust men.
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