Saturday, December 26, 2015

Though I Walk Through the Valley of The Shadow of Death

One of the unfortunate side effects of growing old (aside from the inevitable toll time takes on the body) is the fact that those around you, loved ones, friends and acquaintances, begin to pass from this life with greater frequency. This was made more obvious and real this week when I received word that my great aunt, who was a sort of second mother to me, passed away. No doubt those of you reading this will likely have experienced the death of a loved one at one time or another.

Life is fleeting and the time we spend on this earth will be gone before we know it. (James 4:15-16) Those of us who are getting into the sunset years of our lives can vividly remember the time when we thought that we would live forever. We were young and life seemed to be so full of possibilities. The horizons, if we even acknowledged them at all, seemed to be so far in the distance that we didn’t take time to consider and meditate on our lives and what they were all about. It is often said that youth is wasted on the young. Although we certainly can see why our younger years turned out the way they did, it nevertheless is a truism that we often pass our younger years with nary a thought as to where we are headed and why.

But for the child of God, life holds a wonderful meaning. Not only do we have a life that is full and abundant, we also have a purpose; a purpose which is the most important and transcendent there is. As we see those around us leaving this “mortal coil,” we are reminded of our own mortality and what it means to “redeem the times for the days are evil.” (Colossians 4:5) It is always a sad thing when one passes away. It becomes even more difficult when the one that dies is a non-believer, or at the very least, you don’t know whether they were believers or not.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in the first century to assuage their fears concerning those who had died in the Lord. There was a widespread belief in the church among many in the first century that Jesus would return during their lifetimes. Although the apostles did not specify any such thing (you will remember that Jesus made it clear that no one knew the time or the hour), many still believed and hoped it would be so. But Paul reminds his readers in chapter 4 of the first epistle that the Lord will indeed come and that he will take with Him those who had fallen asleep in Him. Thus, neither the Thessalonians, nor any of us, need to worry or be sad about those who have gone on who are in Christ. They will rise, then those of us who happen to be alive at the Lord’s coming, will join them in the glorious destiny that He has promised those who love him. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)

A wise man once said that life is made up of meetings and partings. Although the death of a loved one is a painful parting and a time of grief, it nevertheless reminds us that we are of those who have a heavenly hope. In the words of the apostle again, “I do not want you to be like those who have no hope,” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) because they, like us, do have hope. We need not despair. Though we grieve in the flesh, we rejoice in the spirit as we see the day approaching!

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