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August 31, 2009

A peace surrounding death of a loved one

by Dave Malnes

A friend from church recently died after a short bout with bone cancer. In her last weeks, she put together her own thoughts and her own funeral service of what it means to be in Christ to that point of death. Her thoughts focused on her 100% assurance that she will be with Christ forever in heaven.

And it got me to thinking ….

What is the assurance that she is talking about?

It means that Jesus will not depart from us when we must finally depart.

Our assurance rests on the truth that Christ has already conquered death by cutting the strands which bind us to our past. These leather-tough strands are the sins that bind us – both in this life and the next. Christ’s death erases all our sins. We are now given the opportunity to enjoy the present moment of our life in calmness and composure. We no longer have to feel burdened by what is past: the false starts we have made, the things for which we became guilty, everything that we didn’t carry through on, and everything that we still haven’t mastered.

Just as Christ has taken the burden of our past, he also bears the burden of our future. 

There are still many times when I catch myself going virtually out of my mind with worry and alarm for my future.  I will worry about my children, my job, and about our nation.   But when our thoughts turn eternal, when we truly ponder the meaning of death, we are reminded death lost its power against our foe.  Jesus declares himself to be on my side.  With that knowledge, I am certain that nothing that has not passed his approval can reach me.  The more worries and anxieties torment me, the more I have to “cast my burdens upon Him”  (1 Peter 5:7).   Then, by referring all this to him, I am bound more and more closely to him.  Again and again Christ has the opportunity to reassert himself as conqueror and to become Lord of my life.

And the most comforting fact of all is that our immortality does not lie with us.  Our immortality consists only in that faithfulness that does not let us go.

But how do the thoughts of eternal life affect my present?

In pondering this question, it is helpful to remember that paradise is not space and it is not time.  There is no moment when it begins and no spot where one can look for it.  When faith is granted to us we are already in paradise.  And when one day we see Him in whom we have believed, paradise will surround us in its fullness.  The “today” in which our history with Jesus Christ begins is also the beginning of paradise.  And at bottom it is never a “condition” but a “shape”.  It is the Savior himself in whose peace we are secure.

Will we ever see our loved ones who are dead?  What is helpful to remember is that our loved ones who died in Christ no longer belong to us; they are sheltered in His everlasting arms.  We can seek them only insofar as we seek those arms.  And we can be sure that if we are near those arms in which His own rest, then the ones to whom our hearts cry out are also quite near to us.  That must suffice for us.   In the meantime, let us concentrate on finding Him and making sure that those around us have found Him as well.

These words are basically a paraphrase of thoughts found in an outstanding book entitled “I Believe: The Christian Creed” by Helmut Thielicke.

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