The Preacher said that there is ‘a time to be born, and a time to die … a time to weep … a time to mourn’, Eccles. 3. 2-4. The longer one lives the more one loses friends and loved ones to death. ‘It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement’, Heb. 9. 27. Death is certain for man until the Lord returns.
The death of a son or daughter is very hard to bear. David wept with a broken heart over the death of his son Absalom, ‘O my son Absalom – my son, my son Absalom – if only I had died in your place’, 2 Sam. 18. 33. But the loss of a husband or wife is the greatest loss. Abraham loses Sarah after a long, happy marriage, ‘So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba that is Hebron in the land of Canaan and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her’, Gen. 23. 2. It is a pathetic sight; this old, godly man with tears running down his face, standing by the body of his beloved wife. But Sarah must be buried. In a hot country the burial usually took place within a day of death. He owns no land; he must purchase a burial plot. He said to the local men, ‘I am a foreigner and a visitor among you. Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight’, Gen. 23. 4. They responded, ‘You are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places’, Gen. 23. 6. What a word of testimony to a godly life!
Abraham then purchased the cave of Machpelah and buried Sarah there. For the unbeliever death is a fearful foe, an ominous black hole without light. There is a finality here and the unbeliever sees nothing beyond. I once stood by the casket of a man who died on account of driving while drunk, an unbeliever. His unbelieving mother refused to leave the casket and clung to his body. The funeral director had to remove her forcibly from the scene. She was without hope, a tragic figure.
But for the believer there is hope. We do not sorrow as others who have no hope, 1 Thess. 4. 13-18. The moment the spirit leaves the body you are at home with the Lord and are comforted. The sorrow and pain are all gone, Luke 16. 22, and there is hope of resurrection, for did not our Lord Jesus say, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live’? John 11. 25. There is the glorious promise of resurrection and of a new, glorified body, 1 Cor. 15. 51-52. It is better on ahead; we have everything to look forward to.
But there is sorrow; ‘a time to weep’. You should not feel sorrow is unspiritual at such a time when death causes us to weep. Did not the Lord Jesus Himself weep at Lazarus’ tomb? There will be times of emotionally loud crying and uncontrolled weeping. Let the tears flow as part of the divine way to release the inner heartfelt loss; cry out to God, for He understands. There is a man in heaven who weeps with you and He will share the lonely hours with you when all others are absent.
But life must go on. You must not let grief destroy you. Remember that God allows weeping for a night but joy comes in the morning. There is the comfort of scripture as the Holy Spirit makes His word come alive to you, 2 Cor. 1. 3-4. there is the comfort of prayer as you pour your heart out to God. There is the wonderful, strengthening love and support of God’s family, the local assembly. There is the comfort that the singing of hymns brings to a sorrowing heart. So, let us pilgrimage home with a song on our lips and His hope in our hearts, and with time the pain will ease.
Slowly, you will find that the pain and sorrow diminish and you will discover that in helping and in praying for others these very experiences of life have prepared you for a rich ministry of compassion ‘that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God’, 2 Cor. 1. 4. You are left here with the purpose of being a blessing to others until God takes you home, or the Lord comes, and we are together forever with Him.
Although not too pleasant an activity you would be wise to plan for the day of your death. You may need to plan and provide for nursing care for your declining years. There are other things that should be in place if and when the time of your death comes. Firstly, there needs to be a legal will. This should not be a ‘do it yourself’ job, but set out according to your specific wishes by a qualified person, and set up according to the legal requirements for such documents. A large number of families have been torn apart by arguments over their parents’ possessions. It may be that the spouse is still living and all will be left to him or her. But if you are alone you may need to decide if all should be left to the children, especially if they are unsaved.
Secondly, a will enables you as a steward of your possessions to decide before your death how these should be dispensed after you are gone. Plans can be made to leave most of your estate to the Lord’s work for which has prayed and supported through the years. Some refuse to plan for death, choosing to ignore its reality, but for the believer it is the door of heaven and should the Lord not return in your lifetime it is a good testimony to leave things ordered and arranged. Thirdly, plans should be made for the funeral and burial. Cemetery lots can be purchased in advance and undertakers chosen. Spare your children that trouble and demonstrate that you have thought it all through for them. After the death of a spouse what about the future? Should you re marry or remain single? At the time of their death you may think, ‘I can never re-marry’. But with the passing of time your thinking can change. I know of one woman who, before she died, suggested to her husband a fine Christian woman that he should marry! Not too wise a practice perhaps but it does sometimes occur. Paul wrote, ‘Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry’, 1 Tim. 5. 14. A good re-marriage to a fellow-believer can prove to be a great blessing but remember, only ‘in the Lord’. God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone’, Gen. 2. 18. Whether one re-marries or remains single it is vital to be determined to live for God in the days that lie ahead. Above all, finish your course well.
Welcome every rising sunlight;
peace, peace is mine.
Nearer home each rolling midnight;
peace, peace is mine.
Death and hell cannot appal me;
safe in Christ whate'er befall me.
Calmly wait I till he calls me;
peace, peace is mine.
J. Denham Smith
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