Friday, May 08, 2015

Grief, Remembrance, and Reassurance

[This week, I was part of services for two veterans of World War 2. This is the message for one of them.]

Job 19:23-27
Romans 8:31-39
John 11:21-27
Matthew 7:9-14

This is a day for Doug's family to remember and be reassured.

The things to be remembered, from what little I know of him, are many. In fact, it struck me as his son Don was telling me about his dad the other day, that if a person wanted to produce a mini-series about the twentieth century and beyond, Doug’s life might be one prism through which you could tell it. From serving during World War 2 in the Medical Corps and earning three Silver Stars for service at Guam, Leyte, and the Philippines, to toiling away in a locked room for Sheffield Measurements on brackets for one of NASA’s lunar landers, not to mention living through the Great Depression, he, along with his wife, have had memorable years.

But, of course, the object of life isn’t simply to endure it or go through it, as though life were a mere succession of unrelated events.

We’re to live in loving, respectful relationship with God and with others.

Don tells me that on his eighteenth birthday, he asked his father, “Now that I’m an adult, what’s the best advice you can give me for my life?” His father thought for a while and said, “Do unto others as you have them do unto you.”

And for a son to say of his father, “He practiced that” and that “I never heard him say a bad word about anyone,” reflects lots of good memories for family and friends to remember and cherish.

But, whenever we bury loved ones, whatever their age, whether we realize it or not, we need more than good memories, however blessed we may feel by those memories. We also need reassurance.

Illness, physical deterioration, and death are all part of this life. They are all part of our common inheritance from our first parents, Adam and Eve.

Like King David in Psalm 51, we can say, “I was born in sin.”

This is no small thing because as Romans 6:23 reminds us, “The wages of sin is death.”

Even those who live lives of repentance and faith in Christ will die. That’s just part of human life in this world.

Where do we go for reassurance that this life need not simply be a succession of futile events ending in death?

This isn’t a new question. Psalm 121 begins with it: “Where does my help come from?”

And then it says: “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

The God Who created the universe and Who has revealed Himself definitively in the person of Jesus Christ stands ready to bring us His help, His love, His forgiveness, and also His reassurance that when we trust in Jesus Christ as our God and Savior, all is well and all will be well, though we and our world may endure constant turmoil.

The believer in Jesus Christ, Who daily turns in surrendering faith to the God we know in the crucified and risen Jesus, can’t understand everything about God or life or death.

But the believer lives in the assurance that the apostle Paul articulated in Romans 8: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” And then: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

For the unbeliever, frailty, illness, and ultimately, death, the wages of sin, have the final say over a life.

But for those who seek and follow Jesus day by day, who endure in faith, death is the point at which our fellowship with Christ enters its fullest, perfect, eternal phase. Death becomes a beginning with God and the fellowship of believers that never ends.

Though we grieve the loss of loved ones on this earth, and it would be unnatural not to, we live in the incomparable reassurance that the God Who refuses to be separated from those who turn to Him in faith, will welcome us to our true home when we pass from this life.

Now, I don’t know if people will use rasp files* in eternity. But I am certain that we will all have our work there. The work we do won’t be toilsome or painful, but meaningful and joyous. Our bodies will be restored and whole and we will live as God intended for human beings to live when He first breathed His Spirit into the lifeless dust that became Adam.

Today and in the days to come, as you grieve you loss, take joy from your memories.

And be reassured by the promise of our Lord Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

God bless you.

*The favorite tool of Doug, a precision machinist, was the rasp file.

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