But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. Mark 13:32-33
I’m in a bit of a fog because of the course of events that has taken place over the last two weeks: My dad went into the hospital with congestive heart failure, a close friend had a stroke, and my beloved pastor was hospitalized with pneumonia. Also, a church friend died unexpectedly from a brain aneurism, my childhood mentor passed away, and my pastor never made it home from the hospital. I find myself vacillating between thankfulness for those whose lives were spared and grief over those who God called home.
I don’t know why I find death surprising. I mean, no one ever makes it out of this world alive. Still, the shock of losing someone when you least expect it just doesn’t seem fair. But God is not fair; He is just.
I wrestle with age-old questions: Why can’t God let everyone live a long and joyful life and die at a ripe old age? Why does God take those who are doing His work in the world? Why does death seem to come in sets of three? Why do we have to die at all??
I’ve had a lot of time to ponder such questions as I drove across four states to attend one funeral and two memorial services. I yelled at God. Cried for the pain of those left behind. Tried to imagine my own death. Told God how He should do things, and then apologized for my behavior. I didn’t get any answers but, surprisingly, my love for others deepened.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 says, Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
It is hard to rejoice and give thanks when you are hurting, but that is what God calls us to do. So, in the midst of deep grief, I am focusing my energies on thanking God for the people He lovingly put in my life—even if I think my time with them was too short. I have to remind myself that He has a plan, that He is God and I am not.
Remembering the people in my past has led me to thank God for the people who are still alive and speaking into my life. This week I hugged adults I never hugged before, I said, “I love you” to friends for the first time, and I texted encouraging notes to people just because they crossed my mind. Isn’t it ironic—or perhaps tragic—to think death revealed how blessed I truly am and drove me to action.
I’d like to think that I will continue to be more thankful, sensitive, and loving because of this experience, but I don’t know if I will. Right now the fragility of life is palpable, which helps me see people through a different lens and love them overtly. I'm not sure I will keep this up knowing it is the pain that drives me to gratitude.
I still don't understand much about death, but what I do know is that God is good, His ways are perfect, and He grieves along with me.
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS It Is Well, Kristene DiMarco with Bethel Music.
Lyrics: “Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You. And it is well with me.”