My eyes are swollen from crying as I write this week’s blog. A dear, life-long friend was killed 48 hours ago in a motorcycle accident in Tulsa. Juanita York was the same age as my sister, Elizabeth, who died almost thirteen years ago. Juanita, her sister Donita, and Liz and I would sit around the piano and sing together as kids, harmony and all. Our parents had been best friends since their teen years, long before we were born. Saying ‘good-bye’ to Juanita is like losing a close cousin, not just a friend.
Of course, this pain (and the pain we feel for her parents, children, husband and sister) bear an eerie resemblance to the nightmare my own family experienced in losing Liz in 2004. Like digging up a gravesite, this is bringing up the horror that my mother, Liz’s five children, and each of us four siblings were hit with that summer.
Grief hits like a tsunami, a lingering fog that refuses to lift. It hangs around, taunting our faith, punching us in the gut, taking our breath away.
On a recent foggy Sunday morning, my pastor, Buddy Hunt, shared a profound yet simple analogy. He described the difficulty of seeing what was in front of him, and the dangers of driving as fast as usual. What he said next summed it up, with this compelling truth:
“Even when it’s foggy outside, the sun is still shining. Even though we can’t see it, it never moves, and it will shine again.”
When life looks foggy (grief, sickness, trials), the sun hasn't moved; it WILL shine again. JESUS… Click To Tweet
Today, I’m particularly praying for my grieving friends. As they’re having to make plans to bury their 48-year-old beloved daughter/ wife/ sister/ mother, church choirs like mine are rehearsing songs for Easter, or (to be more accurate – at least for Christ-followers like myself), ‘Resurrection Sunday’. So, as I grieve with them in this moment, and as I shared with Carolyn (Juanita’s grief-stricken mother) this morning, we still have hope in the midst of this dark cloud.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 Living Bible (TLB)
13 And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died.
Two thousand years ago, when the sun was just coming up on the third day after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, two women with eyes puffy from crying went to His tomb.
They’re intention was to anoint Christ’s body with the customary oils and spices which were used when someone died. However, the tomb was empty! Additionally, the grave clothes that had been wrapped around the body of Jesus (like a mummy) were folded neatly and laying on the stone bed He’d been laid on!
We find this astounding account in Matthew 28: 1-10:
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” ( www.BibleGateway.org )
Can you imagine?? These women went from the depths of despair to overflowing of JOY! Their fog of grief was immediately lifted! Jesus Himself, by God raising Him from the dead, took the sting out of death! He proved that, for those who trust in Christ, death is not the end! Satan may be a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, but he’s a toothless lion, thanks to the resurrection of Jesus!!
1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (KJV)
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
What does this have to do with us? With death, with grieving when a loved one dies?
What difference does the resurrection of Jesus Christ make?
By rising from the dead, Jesus proved that His sacrifice was enough to cover our sins (and every sin committed, past, present and future, by all who will trust in and follow Him), because the “debt of sin” was paid in full! Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus paid our debt!!
I love reading the different scripture translations of Colossians 2:15, describing the victory that Jesus won by His death and resurrection:
ICB “God defeated the spiritual rulers and powers. With the cross God won the victory and defeated them. He showed the world that they were powerless.”
TLB “In this way God took away Satan’s power to accuse you of sin, and God openly displayed to the whole world Christ’s triumph at the cross where your sins were all taken away.”
AMP “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities [those supernatural forces of evil operating against us], He made a public example of them [exhibiting them as captives in His triumphal procession], having triumphed over them through the cross.”
Are you seeing what I’m seeing?
Do you have this hope in Christ, who takes the sting out of death, and promises us eternal life beyond the grave?
A woman asked the Rev. Billy Graham what to do about the “tug on her heart” she felt, particularly near Easter time. READ his response here. Perhaps today, THIS Easter, you can begin a new life with Jesus, and thereby, let go of the fear of death.
Prayer: Lord, Jesus, I thank You for dying for the sins of the world, and for rising from the dead, to prove that Your sacrifice was enough. Thank You for forgiving me (and anyone who asks, in true repentance) all my sins! THANK YOU for the certainty of eternal life with You, where there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor saying good-bye. In times of grief, let the truth of Your Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit be my constant comfort, Lord. Amen!