The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death. Isaiah 57:1-2 NIV
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 NIV
This past year God has been changing my views about death. I’ve had two people who were close to me die within the past six months—one was a young mom and the other was an elderly gentleman. Both people were very precious to me. However, it was easier for me to let my elderly friend go because he was suffering, and I didn’t want to see him in pain anymore. However, when I found out my friend, a young mom, had cancer, my husband and I prayed for her healing almost every single night for over a year. Due to the amount of prayer I had invested and the depth of my feelings for her, I felt heartbroken when healing did not occur. I wonder why she had to go. I wondered why God did not choose someone else. I could come up with a list of possibilites for Him. Wouldn’t mass murderers, rapists, and the like be better choices?
Yet God did not view the situation the same as I did. To me, death seemed like a punishment–something to avoid at all costs. However, God’s view was not the same as mine because death for a Christian creates an opportunity for that person to go to heaven and cease from all suffering. The apostle Paul, who understood God’s view on death, realized that “to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) In fact, he even said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Phil. 1:23)
For the believer, death is gain, but life is an act of service to God and others. Paul states his reason for living with the following words: “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” (Phil. 1:22) Determined to make his life count, Paul served God and worked dilligently to tell others about Christ and to strengthen the church. However, his heart’s desire was to go live with Christ.
Since life is an act of service, mothers and fathers who are terminally ill experience grief because they will not be able to continue serving their children. I may grieve for the family and friends who are left behind, but the believer goes on to a better place. My responsibility should be to pray continually, not just for a week or two, for those who are missing the one that they love. Their hearts will ache for the one who has loved them and served them so well.
I am realizing that God wants me to serve those who are grieving, and I can do this through prayer and loving acts of kindness. I am also trying to change my perspective on death so that it more closely resembles God’s perspective. I am now focusing more on death as a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to believers in John 14:1-6 to prepare a place for them in heaven. When my Christian friends die, Jesus is taking them to a wonderful place that He has prepared for them, a place of peace and joy. Best of all, I will one day join them. Our separation will not last forever, and the reunion will be the best one I’ve ever attended.