It was one of those times when we felt too far away – agonizingly far. We walked much of this journey along side of our nearest and dearest loved ones through text messages alone. Through those updates, sometimes hourly over the last six weeks to share news and prayers and scriptures and songs, we “watched” disease and death claim “victory” over the body of our brother. His strong frame became so fragile, his rosy cheeks grew pale, his hands and feet no longer warm to the touch, his eyes staring blank and lifeless. So many of those days and nights stretched long. And dark. And oh, so weary.
It is sobering. It is loss in the greatest sense. We ache and we mourn. We hold onto as much as we can of our loved one for as long as we can. Our minds trace back over years of precious memories, moments shared and cherished. Tears run freely. Volumes are spoken in knowing glances and embraces with no words.
And yet. A smile breaks through. Through broken voices, we still sing hymns of praise to God! Peace washes over in a knowing, a true moment of thrilling realization that this death gives way to eternal LIFE! Our eyes widen as we imagine our loved one stepping from this dark, decaying world into the splendor of heaven! Those blank eyes sparkling as they open to see the Savior welcoming them. Those hands feeling His hand slip inside theirs to lead them home! Heavenly healed, eternally secure, humbled and overjoyed in worship for the One who gave His life for us! Christ’s death means LIFE, abundant, eternal life to us! Our own death is now the passage to everlasting LIFE!
“What a day that will be when my JESUS I shall see
When I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace
When He takes me by the hand and leads me to the promised land
What a day, glorious day that will be”
Where does this come from – this bold, daring HOPE?
They are just words on a page. But they are God’s Words! The realities of creation reveal the power of God. The life and testimony, death and resurrection of His Son all join in a chorus of confirmation of each and every word of prophesy. God’s Spirit draws our hearts to see it all, trust it all, and KNOW, truly know we are not crazy to HOPE in our glorious eternity!
So in true, God-honoring upside-down fashion, we look at the lifeless form of an earthly body and we see glorious, eternal LIFE beginning! That body was just a shell. The soul of the one we love is safely home… forever. We look beyond the grave – to the time when we will be reunited – when we will see JESUS. In His perfect time, He will welcome the rest of us home!
Then when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory!” THANKS be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! ~ I Corinthians 15:54, 57
And this HOPE does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 5:5
Before His own death, JESUS tried to help His disciples understand this upside-down truth:
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – an abundant harvest of new lives.” John 12:24
In God’s economy death paves the way for LIFE – what is buried and split open, broken and dead produces a whole new level of living and abundant harvest. Our earthly body is just a shell, an outer covering for the true soul within. In physical death, that outer shell is laid aside to free the true soul – all that makes us who we truly are, that part that is named and redeemed and claimed by our Creator – to be forever with the Lord. Beyond the grave, we are more ALIVE than we have ever been before!! No longer burdened by sin in our own nature or the effects of sin in this world, we are made new! Whole and holy, covered by Christ’s blood, welcomed into the very presence of Almighty God! Eternally HOME.
It all has me wondering, though, even while I am still walking this earth… what outer shells of mine (maybe self-protection, fear, pride, or self-reliance?) hold me in a powerful grip, rendering me pale, weak, or lifeless? Which of those outer layers need to be surrendered, to be buried and dead so I can step boldly forward into a whole new level of living and serving JESUS? Not just into eternal life and the hope of my forever home, but into a more ABUNDANT, thriving life – right here and right now!?
No. We are not crazy to hope – in our eternal, glorious future OR in the mind-blowing ways our Savior can redeem and transform the life we continue to live on this earth! His plans for each day are eternally significant and exactly purposeful. May He give me a confidence in the “eternal” that builds in me the courage to crack open any armor and allow Him to get to work on me from the inside out … in the “here and now.” May His Word continue to strengthen my heart to hold tightly to the HOPE that is real and reliable because of Who He is!