Continuing the discussion from the Story of Barnabas our Toy Poodle – let’s talk about another perspective on this topic . . . in Part 2 of this 3-part series.
My first husband (Bob) died several years ago, and as I was processing his illness, and the inevitable need to put him on hospice in the upcoming weeks, I retreated with the Lord to pour out my pain. As I struggled to understand that deep pain, I heard a still small voice in my head say, “I did not create you to experience death, that is why this is so hard”. Wow—what do you do with that?
Up until that point, I had received plenty of advice from well-meaning Christian people on how I was to navigate the pain I was experiencing. And I had given similar advice to others amounting to no more than spiritual clichés – versus “how to” guides on the topic. But all of it felt quite useless when faced with the inevitable death of one that I loved. What if there was not an “idiots guide” to understand this topic of death—do 1, 2, 3 and all will be just fine. How much pain is caused to those we try to help, acting as if we know how to sooth the sting of death? . . . and here comes a loving God whispering to me that perhaps I’ve had the wrong perspective all along.
Death is a contradiction to God’s creation and the result of sin. It is the last enemy to be defeated (check I Cor. 15:16) and why we need Jesus. But we have no capacity to carry death because it is the antithesis of being image bearers of God, and the life-generating nature of love. I love that Jesus referred to death as sleep. “Lazarus was asleep, and I am going to wake him” (JN 11:11-14). You see, Satan did not win in the Garden by saying “you will not surely die”. He knew we would suffer physical death – or falling asleep in this world – until we could be awakened in eternity.
So what was God trying to teach me? I wish I could tell you that he handed me the quick-start guide to navigating death, but he did not. He did teach me extremely important things that have stayed with me through the death of several other dear ones, including our beloved dog Barney. I hope they’ll be helpful to you.
- Life always springs forth around death—we just need to look for it. I know it may sound crazy, but I learned this lesson years ago. When I would experience a significant loss, I would start to look for new life (in all forms—baby animals, new relationships, heightened ministry opportunities) that were sure to show up —and I have not been disappointed. It is as certain to me as a rainbow at the end of a heavy rain when kissed by the sun. It feels like a promise that death has lost its sting and my loved ones are only asleep and being awakened in their forever home, where I will someday join them. The greatest example of life springing forth from death comes from Jesus himself.
- Death always gives us the chance to reexamine our reality—do we believe that death is permanent, and this is what we are really made for? Is this all there is? Death gives us the chance to hunger after God’s truth about our finite beliefs that “this is all there is”. Sure, we can say great things about eternal life—but do we really get what awaits us as believers. We should hope, hunger, and yearn for what is to come. And those who have gone before can become the catalyst to change our perspective.
- The process of grieving can highlight some deficits in what we are putting in our “God spot”—Ouch, this one is painful. God showed me that my pain was being exacerbated by putting Bob in a spot that should only have been reserved for Him. I had elevated Bob as the provider of safety for me. God showed me that was His spot, and thus was idolatry or sin. Yes, anything that we put in the God-spot that is not God is sin. We become dependent on people and things instead of being dependent upon God, creating an identity crisis.
So, if you lose a spouse, parent, child, job, pet, etc., and you struggle with who you are as a result, you may want to ask yourself if you’ve put that person or thing in the spot that is only meant for God.
Ponder the question and let us know what you think in the comments section of our blog …….