And if Christ has not been raised . . . we are of all people most to be pitied – 1 Corinthians 15:17a…19b
The last enemy to be destroyed is death – 1 Corinthians 15;26
Most of you know of the death of my only living brother, Jimmy Ryan, on June 13th. We had another brother, Kevin, who we never knew, that died when he was five months old on February 10th, 1964. My brother Jimmy (Jim to most of his friends) was born that same year on Thanksgiving Day. He was a gift of God to my parents as they were still dealing with their grief. I was born 2 and a half years later.
As a pastor’s son, I saw my Dad comfort and help countless families through their times of grief and tragedy. Then as I followed my father into the ministry, God has put me in a place where bringing comfort to those during times of death has become my primary focus. Losing someone unexpectedly gives me a different perspective and insight into those with whom I have sat during their loved ones passing. Truthfully, I would rather have not had that perspective, but there is nothing that can be changed now. I have believed for years in the promise of Romans 8:28 which says, “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.” If I cannot claim and rest on that promise now, then when can I?
I am reminded of a story told to me by my former colleague, Chaplain Cecil Cook, who has himself gone on to be with the Lord. Several years ago, when Cecil’s father was around 90 years old and had declining health, he shared with his father how he could be content because he had raised all his children well, was loved by them all, and had had a good life. He told his Dad he could go on to death in peace knowing that he did everything God asked Him to do. Cecil’s father turned to him and said “Son, all that sounds real good, but it’s different when it’s you.”
“It’s different when it’s you.” Whether you are facing death yourself, or grieving over a loved one’s death, “it’s different when it affects you personally.”
In the past week, my brother’s death has led to conversations with friends, coworkers, and acquaintances that have shared with me stories of their own past loss that I never knew. There is a common bond for those who have had to bear this kind of pain. It is a void that will never be filled in this life. It makes the hope of heaven even sweeter.
Many avoid the thought or discussion of death because of its’ unpleasantness. At nursing orientation, I jokingly ask if anyone knows what the mortality rate is in the state of Florida. Some don’t get the joke and have guessed numbers like 50 percent.
The believer should live everyday with understanding that this is only our temporary home. We have the promise of life after death, but only to those who have been granted the power of the resurrection of the dead through Christ. In Christ’s resurrection, He conquered death for us. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then what hope do we have?
Death is our greatest enemy. But it will be destroyed in the end. In heaven there will be no more death, crying, tears, or pain. I can’t wait to get there! I am ready. Are you?