A young woman who attended our church died this past Sunday in a car accident. It was a head-on collision as the other driver, also a young woman, crossed the double yellow line to pass the 3 slow poke cars in front of her.
The gal had just turned 20. She had recommitted her life to Christ and walked away from some bad choices in order to start over. She had a new joy inside.
Our church held a sort of impromptu memorial for her last night in lieu of regular Wednesday night service. Through a series of reschedules due to illness, I was part of the worship team. Members of the deceased’s family, who found a wonderful new church home years ago, started filing into the sanctuary. We kept on rehearsing. I thought, Oh, we’re one of the few churches who have a midweek service. Guess they needed to connect with God. Great to see them again and hug their necks.
Those of us onstage shuffled, filled with nerves. When your kid/sister/niece/granddaughter dies unexpectedly, emotions roil. We didn’t know that to expect; how could we serve? Could we offer any kind of comfort? And anyway, where *was* God? How could he allow this to happen? My little girl is gone! She’ll never get married or have kids of her own. The great defeatist, Despair, lingered in the room. I could almost see his enormous maw of pain, open and fangs bared, ready to swallow the grieving visitors.
I quickly scanned the song lyrics in my head. Uh…yeah. The love of God. His comfort. Wanting more of His love and passion for others. His goodness. Holding on to God’s word. Good, good. And oh, “death has lost its sting.”
I didn’t want to offend them. Death, especially of someone so young, isn’t something to be taken lightly. I haven’t lost anyone very close to me – yet. I realize death waits for me on the horizon, hovering like a dark cloud. I can’t avoid it. I can’t dodge it. We will all die, unless Jesus returns first. Period.
We sing a lot of songs about death, frankly. Most of our worship songs are peppered with references to Jesus’ death on the cross, the resurrection, overcoming death, etc. Honestly, I reckon we sing them without thinking an awful lot about them. The words, that is. Yes, Jesus died and rose again. Yes, the last enemy of creation – humans in particular – is death. We’ve all mentally assented to the idea of death as the last frontier in this life. Did we actually *believe* it, that when this life ends, we’ll enter a glorious heaven and receive Jesus’ embrace on the other side? When it came time for application, could my faith stand the test? I didn’t know. I don’t know. I only hoped we could latch onto God’s truth and soothe the hurt of those marvelous people. We could usher in a place of peace and understanding of our eventual victory. We could, for a short time, close the gaping mouth of grief and place our broken hearts into God’s hands for mending.
The service turned out to be a great time to talk about the reality of death and how to handle it. I pray the families received comfort and a sense of God’s presence, despite the painful circumstances. I know I did. We will see our friend again, in the sweet by and by.
This girl’s death woke me up. I don’t want to waste any more time. I will give Zac all the hugs and noogies I can. He’s gotta know I love him. I will tickle Ruby until she comes close to peeing her pants. I will love and honor Jonathon all the days of my life, preferring him above all others. I will listen more closely to the quiet, small voice that guides me into caring for others while I still can.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. – I Corinthians 15:55-57