“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55)
For many of us recently…death’s sting has been right here among our family.
A great woman of faith from our church family died this past week. Death isn’t easy to deal with…even if you know where that person is going.
While I wasn’t really personally close to Michelle, I still have felt a loss and have shed a few tears. I remember working with her in the nursery. Hearing her sweet voice and seeing her patiently and lovingly playing with the children. I have seen her strong fight to defeat cancer and never heard her actually complain. Sure, she was honest and said when she was in pain, but it was never voiced negatively. She was such a positive woman in all aspects of her life.
I don’t mourn for her because we know that she is now without any pain or tears and is being rewarded by Her Father for her perserverance through this life.
But I do mourn for her daughters and her husband. Her girls (the oldest in 8th grade) have done amazingly well through this ordeal. I have yet to really see them upset. I don’t necessarily believe this is because they haven’t dealt with their loss yet. But they’ve seen their mother suffer for years and its probably a relief to know she’s at peace. And according to their father, they’ve had a lot of opportunity to deal with their upcoming grief in the past couple weeks since they knew what was probably coming. But I still continue to pray everyday and multiple times a day for them. I know the road is rough ahead.
I also mourn for Michelle’s husband. While I don’t know him closely, I have seen his patient loving care of his wife. And the way he is always supportive to his daughters. He, too, seems to always have a nice encouraging word for everyone and a constant smile.
I don’t truly worry for Michelle’s family. I know the strength of the faith that they’ve developed and how her beautiful life has permanently influenced their lives. I found it so fitting to here Jeff’s response on Sunday morning as Seth told him how glad he was to see them all at church. Jeff said, “Well, where else would we be?”
I kept thinking of these verses this week:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)
“If one part [of the Body of Christ] suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (I Corinthians 12:26-27)
-And I’m so glad I’m a part of it!!! There’s truly nothing like it!
And finally, this verse was also on my mind a lot…
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55)
I looked up the verses around it (to better understand its context) and I was reminded again about the blessings that wait for those of us who believe:
“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
In thinking about the above verses, it is encouraging to know that death has ultimately been defeated. But it can still be discouraging to feel the sting of death right now. And I’ve felt it quite a few times throughout my life. I’ve watched both of my maternal grandparents die from cancer.
My grandfather died when I was around 10 years old. I still remember that dreaded call when we had to jump in the car and head to their house because my grandma knew it was his last few hours. I remember being shooed into a bedroom with all my other cousins while our parents said good-bye to their father. And I remember going into that tense grief-filled room and saying good-bye to my bald, gaunt grandfather while he struggled to breath. And I remember hospice coming and taking his body away (although I don’t remember seeing them actually take him). I can’t really remember his funeral though. But I think I remember standing at the gravesite under those awnings.
My grandmother died about 4 years ago. I remember seeing her suffer from chemo, then recover, then having to go under more treatments again. I remember her having to wear a wig to my college graduation (I remember mainly from my pictures). I remember visiting her when I knew in my heart it would be the last time I would see her alive. She had me read to her from her devotional in the mornings. Then she had me help her write (because she didn’t even have the strength to do it) final goodbye cards to family and friends whom she knew weren’t right with the Lord.
I also remember her asking us which pieces of furniture we wanted and watching her write them down in her will. On a funny note, I remember her willing her silly purple hat to my sister because it always made her laugh to see her wearing it. I also remember the sound of her oxygen machine and how I couldn’t cry in front of her because if she started to cry she couldn’t breath. And I remember lying next to her as she took a nap and fighting back my tears.
I remember being at CIY with our youth group and getting that dreaded call from my mom. She was crying and I knew what that meant. I remember dreading having to rush back as soon as we returned home in a few days to make it in time for the viewing and funeral. I remember seeing her still face and hating the awkwardness of the formalities of a funeral. I remember watching my husband, uncles and father serve as pallbearers to take her casket to the hearse. And I remember sitting graveside at the final service.
I remember going through her things with my mom and sister. Laughing and tearing up. I can remember many of my own possessions that were once hers.
And thinking of all these things…they were oh so tough (my grandma’s death and other stressors at the same time were what combined to cause my first major case of anxiety). But I can’t imagine having to go through it all and it being your mother instead. Especially at such a young age. So, I continue to pray and think of the Phillips girls often.
With all of that said, how can we think that death’s sting has been destroyed? Aren’t we still feeling it now? In contemplating it all recently, I am reminded about the true sting and cause of death…Sin. In the beginning God created the heavens and earth…to be perfect. There was no sin, no death, no pain. But He also had to create free will. Otherwise He would have only created robots.
And because of free will and the natural rebellious nature of mankind, the first humans decided they knew better than God and wanted to be equal to Him. So, thanks to them (although if they hadn’t…we can safely assume that someone else would have made the same decision soon enough)…we now have pain, death, labor pains (thanks a lot Eve!), weeds, and more. All thanks to Sin.
Many people argue that if God is real why does He let bad things happen to good people. Why does He let people die and suffer?
Honestly, if there is good, doesn’t there have to be evil? You can’t know and categorize something as good if there isn’t something evil to compare it too.
And God has to let consequences play out just like He lets people make their own decisions. Yes, God could stop these things, but then He’d be forcing our hands as well and controlling our choices. It’s a no win situation because we’d argue against either case.
And yes, its hard to understand. So many times we think we know better than God…that we’d make things happen differently. But in reality, we have no idea of the big picture. We don’t know how our different choices would pan out…probably to cause someone else more pain in the end. So, let’s let God be God. He knows it all and sees it all and…
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
For those of you who aren’t Christians, and don’t have the above reassurance, I do have pity for you. You may believe that God is just out to get us all and that He is ultimately cruel. But we definitely know differently. I would urge you to seriously consider your position because I know what’s coming if you don’t…and it burdens me deeply.
I have been thinking about many of my family members who aren’t Christians, or who aren’t right in their walk with God. I sometimes don’t even know how to approach the subject with them. And I fear that my words will only push them further away. I continue to pray daily for them and I really, really hope that they will see the error of their ways before its too late. Our days are numbered and we don’t know the future. We could die in some accident, get sick, or Jesus could even come back any second, any minute, any day. So why wait?
Since I just finished a book, I’ve been trying to decide what to read next. I think I’ve decided on Randy Alcorn’s “Heaven” book. I’m curious to read it and learn even more about my true home and the rewards that await me. I hope that I will see you there someday, too….