It is never easy when someone we dearly love, dies.
Even in the case of terminal illness, when we know that death is inevitable…our hearts cannot fully prepare for the pain and grief it will feel when the time finally comes to say ‘good-bye.’
And I imagine it is even harder when the news of someone’s passing comes out of the blue. Everything is fine one day; we are laughing, enjoying life, and going about our business.Then, POW!!
Your heart, and your head, and every little part of you receives the terrifying, blind-sided impact—almost as if you have been hit head-on by a rapidly-moving freight train.
That special someone that you love so much…is gone.
We try to comfort ourselves and each other with words like, “May his soul rest in peace,” and “She is in a better place now,” or “He is no longer suffering,” and “She is with Jesus now.”
But what if those words we are speaking are just the opposite of the reality?
I, no doubt, believe that ALL of us are going to see Jesus one day. Scripture tells us that each of us will have to face judgment and give account for our lives. In that moment, we all look forward to hearing Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” We will be ushered into His eternal presence in a place that He calls paradise.
But what if those words of welcome are not spoken? Rather, what if God says, “Away from me, I never knew you.”
It is a terrifying thought…but it is going to be the reality for so many. People will continue to say, “Rest in peace,” but what if their time here on earth WAS there peace? This WAS their heaven…and because of poor decisions, or lack-of decisions, they are now destined for eternal life of unimaginable pain, torture, and regret. What if the ones we love so much reach the pearly gates of heaven, only to be turned away and sentenced to life without parole in the fiery depths of hell?
Surely, no one wants to think of that. Our bodies want to live in a state of homeostasis. So, when someone we love slips from the grip of our hands, we naturally do and say whatever we can to return our hearts back to a state of contentment and normalcy.
Now, while I can’t guarantee that my soul will see heaven, I have a confident assurance that it will. This confidence comes not from what the world says about death (or spirituality, or afterlife, or any other worldly perspective). It comes from my faith in Christ and the hope that I have in Him, when I first believed and trusted in Him. This assurance of faith says that my sins are forgiven and I am marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
But for now, I wait in anticipation of that day, joyfully expectant of the moment when I can lock eyes with Jesus…
But I would be lying if I said that all my thoughts about heaven are blissful. It seems almost un-Christian of me to even suggest that heaven would be anything but perfection.
My hang-up lies in this:
What if I get to heaven…and everything is just as it should be. I am walking along streets paved with gold. The angels are singing their praises and their music is radiating songs of worship. As I continue along my way, those that have gone before me are smiling, greeting me with an unexplainable joy and excitement…
Then…as my eyes scan about…I begin to feel an immense pain in my chest. I search frantically to be reunited with the people I love the most—my mom, dad, sister…but I can’t find them. I begin desperately asking others to help me find my family as the pain grows worse, and no one says a word. All I receive are blank stares, almost as if they are saying to me, “Don’t you know?...” Tears begin to well up in my eyes, my hands begin to tremble, and my knees start to weaken. Then, in the distance, I see Jesus. Using what little strength I have left, I run to him, falling at His feet. Knowing exactly what I am feeling, and knowing the very thoughts running through my mind, He gently turns to me. His eyes are serene and his movements are slow and tender. And before I can utter a single word to him, he kneels with me, wraps his arms around me and says, “I am sorry. They chose not to believe; they chose not to follow.”
And that’s when it happens—every ounce of my strength vanishes, my heart is violently ripped from my chest and my emotional walls come crashing down as I lie there in his arms, sobbing.
Nothing brings me to tears faster than when I play this scenario out in my head.
I don’t want my experience in heaven to be like that.
So I pray; I pray harder than I have ever prayed in my life. To my God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the Alpha and the Omega, the Giver of life, the Sustainer of all things, I pray that He not give up on my family, that He continues to pursue them as relentlessly as he pursued me. I pray that their hearts will be receptive to His love for them and that all their fears and doubts and insecurities will be washed away by His gentle grace and mercy. I pray that their eyes are opened to see themselves the way that God sees them. I pray that they are able to experience the forgiveness and love that was poured out for them on the cross; the unconditional love that says, “I don’t care where you have been, or what you have done. I love you. And those scars where my flesh was torn apart, the thorns that pierced my head, and the nails that penetrated my hands and feet...it was done for you. And I would do it all over again—why? Because I. LOVE. YOU.”
I pray that my family, and lost souls around the world, are able to humbly accept the salvation and peace that only comes from Jesus. And in doing so, lead a life that is glorifying to Him as they begin their journey into eternal bliss with Christ.
When someone dies, it is common for us to say things like, “He is in a better place now.” I think it is our body’s defense mechanism. We entertain these rainbows and roses scenarios because the alternative is just too painful to consider. But the reality is, the only way we are going to experience heaven and live in that ‘better place’ is if we make a decision on this side of heaven. God does not want to be separated from us—that is why He sent His son, Jesus, to die for us. And He says that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Postponing that decision could have catastrophic, eternal consequences. We don’t know when our time here on earth is up, so we must ensure our place in heaven today.
“The only opportunity you will ever have to get right with God is the opportunity God affords you right now. If you dream of coming to God after you die, you are nursing a vain hope.” Ray Pritchard
So, for all of you that have already made the decision to believe and follow Christ, I pray that you continue to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
For the rest of you, I pray that today is the day you choose life over death. Today is the day you choose to give your life to Jesus in exchange for eternal life with Him in heaven.