“It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart.”
I lost a good friend this month.
After a four-year battle with cancer, Mike finally succumbed. He fought well and fought hard. He inspired many by his example of determination and optimism. But in the end, he lost. He died.
The same fate awaits me.
No, I am not sick. I have no health issues at present other than the normal aches and pains of a near fifty-year-old.
But I am going to die—sooner or later. I will lose the battle…like Mike, my mom, Lori’s grandma, my dad’s dog. We all will. Death is certain.
I remember a time nearly 30 years ago when my grandpa, my dad and his only sibling, my Uncle Wes, and I spent a few hours together on a Friday night looking at pictures. The four of us, the Bonzelaars. Three generations. Going back in time.
Grandpa pulled out the albums and folders of family pictures from his desk and introduced us to his dad and grandfather. He showed us pictures of our great-great-great-great (I lost count) uncles and aunts, cousins and in-laws six times removed. He told us the stories behind the pictures. It was fascinating.
Then my uncle said something I will never forget. “Jeff, one day you will be a picture, and if you’re lucky, you’ll end up on someone’s dresser.” Sobering words for a twenty-year-old.
But not entirely.
If the most I could look forward to is ending up a picture on some future relative’s nightstand, I could not live. And I certainly could not die. Not well at least.
Without a belief in something more, something beyond, life becomes unbearable and death incomprehensible. Life would be, as William Shakespeare’s Macbeth said, nothing but “a tale told by an idiot.” The Apostle Paul says it like this: “If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Cor. 15:19, NLT).
We need more than this world to live and die well in this world.
And that is what Jesus’ death and resurrection secures for us…hope for another world. A hope that sustains us in life and in death.
The great circuit rider-evangelist and founder of the Methodists, John Wesley, said, “My people die well.” They died well because they believed well. Hope was their ballast. The hope of heaven.
From that perspective, my believing-friend Mike didn’t lose the battle. He won. He beat me! “To be absent from the body…(is) to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).
See you later Mike.