But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13)
Just over a week ago, a lady I have immense admiration for passed from this world. She was an absolute beauty and the wealth she left behind is a fortune of dizzying proportions.
But neither her wealth nor her beauty were notable by the standards of this age and culture.
In fact, her body showed the wear and tear of her 96 years. Small of stature, I doubt she weighed 90 pounds fully dressed and soaking wet. The last few months saw her in much pain and often in a wheelchair, yet she was cheerful and had a smile and kind words for everyone.
Nonetheless, she was truly lovely. Hers was the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit – a beauty which has followed her and found its fulfillment in her permanent home with the Eternal God.
And her fortune… How can I describe it? It is one of the largest I have ever seen. A spiritual legacy spanning four generations. A wealth of faithful obedience to God and of love and compassion which staggers the mind. It is a fortune of far greater value and permanence than any dollar amount.
Her son and daughter-in-law, their children, and their grandchildren have all been heirs of this vast treasure. I see the same gentle and quiet spirit in them. There is joy and laughter and love all around.
Of course, there is pain and strife, too. But when error or rebellion rise up here or there in the family, mercy and grace abound. Within the family and for those who know them, there is not a soul who has reason to doubt that they are loved and important, not only by the family but also by the Lord.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
One of my close friends, a prayer and accountability partner, comes from this spiritual inheritance and so I, too, benefit from it. So do our daughters who are also close.
Of course there is mourning for the temporary loss of this precious woman of God. Yet I must say they grieve splendidly, for in the family’s grief, there is also a streak of joy – the joy of knowing she has arrived safely Home.
All of us, myself included, look forward to our own Homecoming. Some future day, we will see her again and once more worship the King of Glory together, but better than before. Then, we will no longer encumbered by sin, weariness, or pain.
And in the meantime, all of us have seen in her an example of eager expectation of the day the Lord calls us home and faithful, uncomplaining endurance if He leaves us here – even if leaving us here is the most difficult part.
So today, my prayers go out for these, my friends. But even more so, my prayers reach out for those friends and loved ones who do not have this hope. My prayer is for my Lord to draw all who are consumed by sorrow and despair to Himself that they may share in an inheritance beyond all imagining.
I was once one of these – hurting and hopeless – and I well know the futility of denying God and living for myself. But He called me out from this pit; called me to die to myself and live for Him.
For my recently departed friend, for her loved ones, and for all of us who are in Christ, physical death is no longer the enemy to be avoided but the friend to be embraced. It will be the final conquering act over our flesh before our true lives begin.
My friends, my dears, if you have not found love in this dark world, know that it is there. He is there – the One who is Love. The Way, the Truth, the Life.
Find Him. Find hope.
And someday, I pray I can introduce you to Nan – one of my personal heroes.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55