John Todd was a nineteenth century pastor. When he was only a little boy, both of his parents died, and he was taken by a servant to live with his aunt. It was a terrifying time for the little boy, but his aunt loved him dearly and provided for his education. He eventually became a clergyman. Now, after he was grown, his old aunt fell ill. She knew she was going to die, and so she wrote John a letter, asking him if death was the end or if she could expect something “beyond.”
John wrote his aunt back, and he told her something like this: “When my parents died, you promised to be a kind mother to me. Your servant came to fetch me, and it was a long journey to your home. It was late at night. I was so frightened, and I asked the man, ‘Do you think she’ll go to bed before we get there?’
“The servant chuckled and said, ‘Don’t worry, she’ll wait up for you. She’ll have her candle in the window. You’ll see.’
“And you did. We arrived very late that night, and your candle was in the window. You took me inside and fed me some supper. You brought me upstairs to my very own room and sat with me while I went to sleep.
“God can be trusted to do as much for you as you did for me. God will be with you as you go to sleep, and you’ll have a loving welcome waiting.”
The fear of death
Death frightens the bravest of us. The thought of dying can be terrifying, but the thought of losing those we love to death is even worse. Our mortality is a fact that we must live with, but we aren’t alone in dealing with the lonely void that death leaves in its wake.
“ ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away’ ” (Job 1:21). Isn’t that what people often say? I’ve always hated that line. It makes God sound so distanced and uncaring, as if death is neither here nor there in His eyes. But that isn’t true. Death breaks our hearts, but something we don’t often realize is that death breaks God’s heart too.
When God created Adam and Eve, He asked them not to eat of the fruit of one tree in the Garden. If they ate of that tree, they would die. God didn’t want them to die. He’d created them to live forever, to enjoy all of creation for an eternity. And that is how we are wired, too, to go on living forever. The Bible says that God put eternity into our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That’s why death is such a horrific shock, regardless of when it happens. Death feels wrong, because it is not a part of the original plan.
When Jesus was on earth, He had a very good friend named Lazarus, who got sick and died. Lazarus’s sisters sent for Jesus to come help, but when He arrived, Lazarus was already dead. The Bible tells us that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). He cried. He grieved there with the family of His dear friend, mourned the loss of Lazarus. Death is painful for those of us left behind, and somehow we must pull together and get through it. Jesus experienced that pain, even though He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.
Death hurts God too.
God grieves with us when those we love die. He isn’t a distant Grim Reaper, plucking those we love away from us. He’s a loving Father who is going to miss that person even more than you will. When you cry, He cries. When you feel dismally lonely, so does He. Even in our grief, we are not alone.
When you die, God is going to miss you. He is going to miss having conversations with you. He’s going to miss giving you little gifts throughout the day, such as the streak of green lights that got you to work on time, or that refreshing breeze when you were hot after rushing around. He’s going to miss planting things in your path to help you deepen your relationship with Him and learn more about the world around you. He’s even going to miss watching you sleep. You are more precious to God than a baby is to his or her mother, and just think of how a mother dotes over her little one! When you die, God is going to miss you terribly, and nobody is going to be able to replace you in His heart.
The process of dying is not an easy one, but God is not going to let you go through it alone. He’s not going to let go of you. He’s going to hold you close until your very last breath. He’s going to wrap you up in His love and give you the biggest hug He can give you until He sees you again. When you finally rest and die, He’s going to keep your memory in His heart, because that is not the end.
Resurrection day is coming!
God has a plan—a plan that was finalized when Jesus came and died for us. We might die on this earth, but Jesus will come back and raise us back to life so that we can be with Him forever. The Bible says, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
That’s a noisy scene the Bible describes. But it’s a celebration! When the time is right, God isn’t going to wait a minute longer for that reunion. He’s going to raise the dead first, and I think that’s because He just can’t wait to see them again. He’ll have waited a long, long time to see these dear friends, and He won’t want to put it off for another second!
Just think of how overjoyed you’ll be when you get to see the people who died too soon, the ones you grieved for so deeply, all alive and smiling again. Multiply that joy by a million and you will understand a little bit about how happy God will be on that day.
Death might be a natural part of life because of sin in the world, but God didn’t create you for death. Listen to that soft Voice in your gut that tells you how wrong it all feels—how painful and unreal that you should have to say Goodbye. That Voice belongs to God, reminding you that He created you for eternity.
We’ve been through a lot. We’ve endured a great deal of pain. We’ve said Goodbye to those we loved before we were ready, and we’ve shed a great many tears. But that isn’t the end, for God isn’t done with His plan yet. God created us for eternity, and when we hold onto our friendship with Him, that is exactly what we’ll have—an eternity to love each other, to hold each other close, and to make up for lost time.
And nobody is looking forward to that day more than God!