I walked into a cemetery a few weeks ago. I did not know anyone buried there. I just needed to think…about life…about death. I looked at some of the names on the gravestones. Each one marked a person, a person who lived, breathed and walked the same roads that I do now. Each one had a life, a family and a story. I went into that cemetery because several people in my life have lost someone recently, and my heart was so heavy with the sting of death. My daughter’s friend in third grade lost her daddy. A godly couple from our first small group here lost their daughter. Both unexpectedly, this close to Christmas.
As I looked at those tombstones, all of the other deaths that have touched my life came to mind, wave after wave. Grandparents. My husband’s brother. My best friend. I felt grief, but something else. Anger. Rage. The deep understanding that this is not the way it is supposed to be. I hate death. I hate death. Those are the words that formed in my mind as hot tears of anger came to the surface.
Every stone in the ground marked a spot where someone else had stood and wept. Where hearts had broken and dreams had died. This was not the plan. This was the result of sin, which breaks everything. We face death because of sin. Hearts break because of sin. As I looked at the graves all around me, I thought about the fact that the only thing that separates me from my own marker in the ground is time. That is all. It may be years, months or days. I can’t know. All I know for sure is that all that separates me and my name etched in stone is a an hour glass, full of ever decreasing sand.
I could end this post right here, with the thought that we must squeeze every ounce of joy out of life right now, because it is coming to an end. I could leave us under the weight and heaviness of death and it’s finality.
But I am a Christian. And that changes literally everything.
Though my heart cries out through tears that I hate death, it cries out even more loudly that death is not the end. Because of Jesus Christ. Because he tasted death for all of us. He died to break the power of death over us. And in the silence and darkness of His tomb, where His broken body lay, the Bible tells us that God raised Him from the dead (Acts 2:32, Rom. 6:4, Gal. 1:1). And everything changed. Death was undone. It’s finality and power were shattered. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and walked out of that grave, never to die again. He rose, conquering death and hell and disarming our enemy who held us hostage to the fear of death. He rose, proving to us that God would keep His promise to raise us up from the dead as well. He rose from the dead and though we grieve with every loss, we grieve armed with hope, and wrapped in His words, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
That is why our funerals look very different than funerals of those who die outside of Christ. We mourn the loss of a person, but we celebrate the home going of child of God. We bury a physical body in the ground, but we understand that our loved one is more alive than they have ever been, because they are in the presence of the very Author of Life. We understand that this is not the end. Not even close. It is the threshold of eternal life in the presence of God.
As a Christian, if I were to close my eyes and listen to the meaning of the sand pouring through the hourglass of my life, I would not hear “It’s ending.” I would hear, “I’m closer, closer, closer to home.” Every day that passes I am one day closer to stepping out of that grave and running, not walking, into the embrace of my Savior.
So next time you sit at a funeral, heart aching, I want you to think about the last funeral. The final one. It’s coming. There will be an end to death. The very last enemy to be destroyed is death itself (I Corinthians 15:26). Death will be no more. All is made right. Our victorious King Jesus reigns forever.
*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here: The Gospel