(Note: This will be my last devotion of the school year. Last evening I learned of the passing of my father-in-law in South Africa and will be traveling there today and won't return until after the semester ends. The devotion below I wrote just over a year ago after the death of a dear friend. The words seem appropriate for today as well. Jim)
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (I Thessalonians 4:13-14 NIV)
Death has been on our minds a lot over the past week as the images from Tucson have dominated the media. Death, public death especially, always shakes us. As a late colleague once put it, death is an intruder. It is an unwelcome reminder of our own mortality. Sure, we know we’re going to die, someday; just don’t remind us. Yet, we were reminded last week and we will be reminded again, sooner or later, for death is a reality of life in a fallen world.
Four the past four years, I have been reminded of this every week as I sat down for breakfast with my friend, Alan. He had been battling an insidious form of cancer for over a decade when I first met him. He averaged at least two surgical procedures a year and countless MRI’s. He had one eye completely removed and poor vision in the other. We used to laugh about his threats to his wife to get behind the wheel again.
Alan had been facing his own mortality for years and spending all those hours over eggs and coffee helped me become even more comfortable with my own. Last summer, after yet another surgical procedure, Alan knew his time was running out. The cancer was now in a place where it could not be removed and his tolerance for aggressive and painful treatment was at an end. The next months were still spent laughing and talking about everyday stuff, but now the conversation was sprinkled with talk of his impending death. He was tired of the suffering; he was ready to go home to be with Jesus. There was a tinge of sadness of leaving his wife and four sons behind, but he was ready and he was filled with much hope.
I saw Alan in the hospital the day before I left for our mission trip to South Africa last month. I knew it would be the last time on this side. He died three weeks later. Death had intruded on my life. There was sadness, but mostly there was hope. Alan was now free from his suffering and with Jesus.
In the years I knew Alan, I never saw fear. He always lived with hope regardless of the pain or the specter of death hanging over him. He reminded me that in Jesus there is no sting in death (I Corinthians 15:55), only hope.
Today, I have once again reminded you of your own mortality. You may consider it to be an unwelcome intrusion, but it need not be. For those who know Jesus, death is a mere passage into real life—life as it was originally created to be. Life filled with joy and without pain or suffering. A life my friend Alan is now enjoying, and one that we who know Jesus will one day experience as well.
© Jim Musser 2011