Surprised By Death

This past Saturday morning, I received a phone call that was one of the last phone calls that I had ever expected to receive that day...

Before I tell you what the phone call was about though, let me give you a little background...

Last spring I received a phone call from a very good friend of mine that was part of the church in Kansas City where I had my last pastoral ministry. I served there for eight years, and this young man at the time, was one of my youth group members, and was also one of my right hand men. Every time I needed something, I knew that I could call him and he would be there help. We spent hours working on my car, working on projects at the church, decorating the church for VBS until 2 AM, service projects for outreach, and so much more. I knew I could always call him and he would be there.

The phone call I received last spring, was a request from him to come back down to Kansas City and perform his wedding for he and his fiancé. It was such wonderful news! I was so glad that God had brought a young woman into his life that would love him and that he could love.

As I got to know the couple over the following months it was so apparent to me that they were meant for each other. Both practiced selfless love towards one another, they were godly individuals, both beginning to get involved in a local church, and always serving others. It was truly a match made in heaven.

Fast forward seven months to this last Saturday morning, when I learned that in an act that only God Himself could explain, God chose to take this young man's wife home to glory. She was 20 years old, and seemed so very young, but shined with the light and love of Christ wherever she went.

At first sorrow and grief swept over my heart for my friend and his circumstance. He had waited so patiently for God to bring the right woman into his life. He had and was serving Christ so faithfully.

But then the questions began to arise in my mind. "How?" and then, "God why?"

The how was simply based upon God's decision to take her.
He is a sovereign God, this world is His creation, it was simply His choice.

But then the question, "God Why?" arose. My thoughts went to an online sermon excerpt video that I saw on facebook a few days ago that a friend of mine had posted, where the speaker was saying that often we do ask, "God Why?" The response that the speaker said on behalf of God was simply, "Why not?" Why should it be someone else but you? Out of all the sin that I have committed against God, why has He not extinguished my own personal life, but instead has given me another chance for worship and service.

At first I thought to myself, that is a very harsh statement to make at such a time like this!

We demand answers often times, we want reasons. God why would you do such a thing like this? Why would you seemingly destroy this young man's life? Why would you end this beautiful young woman's life so abruptly? For what purpose? For what reason? God it's not fair!

We don't often understand what it is that God is doing, nor do we during this lifetime necessarily deserve to know. But what are we called to do? Trust God.

Many unbelievers say that believers say that because we lean on God as a crutch to in a sense hold us up. Well, if God is a crutch, then I want a bigger one. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."

That verse is not a suggestion, nor is it a word of advice, but it is a command, but notice its not only a command, but also a promise. He will direct your paths. He will strengthen you. He will give you grace.

James 4:10 "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
1 Peter 5:6 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."
Nahum 1:7 "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,"
Isaiah 41:10 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Four years ago, my sister was in a car accident and experienced severe internal damage. Being placed on a ventilator, she was declared "brain dead". When the accident happened I was 12 hours away by car in the middle of no-where at a Bible conference. It had just snowed and the car that we had rented was a low riding car. We were forced to spend the night in northern Wisconsin while my sister was laid up in the hospital in Des Moines. I struggled that night, begging God for healing. I pleaded with God to spare my sister's life. She was a young mother with three children, and a loving husband. Why, how could it be in God's best interest to take her home? It made no sense to me. I couldn't fathom it or understand it.

Yet, the inevitable came. To be honest I was shocked, quite numb, perhaps even mad at God. How was this fair? I knew this sort of thing happened, but why my family? I couldn't understand, and to be again honest, to this day I don't understand it, and I don't think I ever will this side of heaven.

But I knew from God's Word, that regardless of how I felt, I was to "Trust In The Lord".

Isaiah 40:31 "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Today I still cry at times when I think of my sister, I still struggle at times thinking about those three days in the hospital. But with each passing day, I trust a little more that God knows what He is doing (and of course He does).

As I look back on the situation, just as I do now with the situation that just arose on Saturday, I'm thankful that both my sister and my friend's wife were born again believers. Both knew what it meant to have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, so today I know without a shadow of a doubt that both of them are in heaven today. What the situation could have looked like if they were not believers would be totally different, and is played out in similar surprising deaths everyday around our world, and will continue until Christ puts an end to death in this world.

The hope we have in Christ far exceeds our greatest fears.
The hope of eternity is far above the threats of this temporal world.
The hope we have only spurs us to focus on eternity more than it does the present.

The strength we have from Christ, comes through us following the command to place our faith in Him.

Death, although it does catch us off guard many times in life, should not surprise us. It is something that has been promised to every person because of our sins...but it never seems to come at an opportune time. It is appointed once for man to die. But for the believer to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

For now we weep in sorrow over what seems to be a lose, but we trust in the Lord knowing that for the believer we will be reunited!

What a day that will be when we see our Savior, and we are reunited with our loved ones.

Song: When We All Get To Heaven