(1 Corinthians 15:51-56, NLT) 51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
From November 2013 through May 2014 was a very difficult time in my family. We were faced with mortality and grief in various undesirable ways. In November 2013, my grandmother passed away after suffering from a massive stroke that hit her three years prior to her death. The following April, my grandfather (who had lived with Alzheimer’s Disease for 7 years) made his grand entrance into Heaven. Then the very next month, my dad was diagnosed with advanced, rapidly progressing, Alzheimer’s Disease. To say that we felt devastated doesn’t quite encompass the depth and magnitude of our anguish.
I could write page upon page about the crippling effects of dementia (as well as other types of neurological diseases) on the victims and their families. It is a certain, and often slow, death.
And there it is, the thing we most fear will happen…death. Our humanity causes us to accept death as final. In our minds, it is the end. When a loved one passes on, people tell you that it’s not goodbye…not the end…and you nod and feign your resolve and agreement, but in that moment the only thing that you can truly feel is the emptiness and pain left behind, and the only thing that you believe is that you’ll never see that person again. We are humans, and to us…death stings.
To us, death feels like a punishment, because we have to go without someone that we love…missing that person and holding fast to our memories, hoping to never forget anything. In our grief, we are blinded by emotions and we forget the truth of God’s word about death. We are hurting, so we don’t understand or remember that because of Christ we have a HOPE that goes beyond mortality.
13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14)
Though we can’t accept it in the hours of distress and pain, the truth remains that death is only temporary. It isn’t the end for those who are in Christ. Essentially, our mortal lives are but a progression toward our own individual appointed times. So we have to get out of our heads when it comes to the dread and anguish associated with death. Death has no sting or victory…not because we don’t have to experience it and deal with it, but because we have a promise that far outshines anything this life, this temporary existence that is riddled with heartache and difficulties, has to offer us. This life is not purposed to benefit us. It’s not about you or me. Every moment spent breathing air is a gift…not because this life will be the pinnacle of your existence, because it just isn’t. It’s but a vapor that lasts mere moments in the span of eternity. It is a gift because we have been created and chosen to be a part of something bigger than ourselves…to live outside of our own needs and serve a purpose in God’s plan for humanity. So when we have lived that out, when we have given our lives to Christ and done our best to serve God’s plan, we don’t have to fear what comes next. We naturally miss our loved ones, but what purpose does it serve to give ourselves over to the emotions of grief, sadness, and distress? Having victory over death isn’t cheating death, because we don’t have that power. The victory is in knowing that even when the wages of sin is death, we don’t have to pay that price because Christ did when He went to the cross. His sacrifice gives us the victory that comes from not fearing our exit from this life.
Watching someone that you love suffer through a disease is not easy. I see my dad, who is reduced to the mindset of a young child…unable to care for himself…no longer able to think rationally and independently, and I hurt. My humanity aches at the thought that soon we will no longer have him with us here at part of our lives. Yet there is this other part of me, driven by the truth of God’s word…by His promises, that longs for the day when my dad is free from his humanity and transformed supernaturally into his heavenly body that will never die. He’s earned that.
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, sometimes our fears are born out of the unknown. We don’t know what to expect out of death, other than grief, so we are fearful of it. Help us to remember that mortality is but a present trouble. Help us to fix our eyes on the unseen…the glory of Heaven. When we are Heavenly-minded, we are able to see beyond the here and now. When we fix our eyes on You and Your ways, we are able to move beyond our emotions and accept our human experience for what it is…temporary. Thank you for this gift…for choosing us to live for this time. Amen.