We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13
It’s been quite some time since I attended a funeral. Not that we haven’t lost dear friends in the last few years…but we lived far away at the time and just didn’t go. This time…when Heath died…we went.
Death is something no one wants to have to look on full-face. There’s no way really to polish it up. It is our final enemy. Our temptation is to remove ourselves as far from suffering and death as we can. When someone you love is on this path, then how can we do anything else but enter in…?
Heath lived 15 months or so with a devastating, killing cancer. That in itself was a miracle. When he died, a small loving family is left to figure out a new normal for their lives. They won’t be alone in this.
How thankful I am that God draws close to His children in the daily and in death. Heath’s wife and children will have what they need to face what comes next. God is faithful. God is good.
When a gifted, lovely 42-years-young man dies, leaving a wife and three little girls, can we say in this that God is good? If we cannot, then we never can. We cannot see what God sees, but we know from experience and from His Word that He will work good out of every situation in His children’s lives…every. single. situation.
Heath understood that, and he lived it. His family does as well.
You might not think that a funeral can be a joyous thing. I don’t cry easily. Maybe after so many of our own losses, maybe after years of cancer nursing…tears just don’t come at the usual times. During Heath’s funeral, I couldn’t stop them from rolling down. Out of love and out of loss…but also out of wonder at the beauty of God’s care and character.
With Hope is a song written by Steven Curtis Chapman in 2008 after the accidental death of his 5 y/o daughter, Maria. The tribute video for Heath at his funeral featured this song as the soundtrack and it was so right. Somehow, especially in times of loss, God weaves a deep hope into our faith. I saw it in Heath’s family…and I experienced it myself. God is good…always.
Worship with me.
This is not at all
How we thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We has so many dreams
But now you’ve gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you
And we can cry with hope
We can say good-bye with hope
‘Cause we know our good-bye is not the end
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again
And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God’s plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father smile and say ‘well done.’
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
‘Cause now your home
And now your free
We have this hope as an anchor
‘Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true
We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope*Photo Credit: Facebook
Postscript: Toward the end of Heath’s funeral, a solitary musician with guitar began to sing Come to Jesus. We, in that gathering, were all suspended in our thoughts of Heath, sad in our loss of him and full of joy that he was Home with the Lord. In the emotion of that moment, the singer, just into the first verse of that beautiful, soulful song, faltered. He willed his voice to continue but couldn’t. Even as his voice gave away, soft voices in the congregation took up where he left off. He strummed the guitar, and we sang…quietly, full of reverence at the meaning of all before us.
It is what we find in the truest experience of the Family of God and the grace of God. We all falter sometimes…we all fall. He lifts us up – either through the hands and voices of others, or by His own hand and word. He carries us. He helps us see beyond the pain and wretchedness of an unbelievable loss…to the glory of that life, of our lives, and His glory reflected in them.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:3-9