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Death, where is your sting?

A month ago, a friend on Facebook posted that she had given birth to her son, Isaiah. In her words, “he was born still, but he was still born.”

A month ago, my family was out for dinner when Mom got a call and we found out that someone we knew was killed in a car accident.

Months ago, family friends lost the beautiful little girl they had recently adopted from China: she died during heart surgery.

Shortly after giving birth, that same Facebook friend posted this quote from “I Will Carry You” by Angie Smith:

“So what are we to do when we feel like The Lord has failed us? We have done every bit of what we felt we could. We trusted him. We called on him. We awaited his appearance and even fought doubt as the days passed because above all else he Is good right?…..and yet she [or in my case Isaiah] remained in the tomb….I believe that everything that happens in our lives, however awful, is an opportunity to bring glory to Jesus. Have I wished it had been in a different way? OF COURSE I do…..all of us have times of crisis. The most we can do is put our hands to the stone and accept what happens next with the grace that says circumstances will define neither God’s love for us nor our love for God.” 

The snowy night (New Year’s Eve) that we showed up to grieve and offer our condolences to old family friends, a lot was said and many tears shed. But not once did I hear that family question God’s presence in all this. They were shocked that their son had been killed on his way home, but they didn’t question the God who “gives and takes away” (Job 1:21). 

The mother who lost her daughter during heart surgery recently blogged:

Just to be clear…all of our sorrow, all of our grief, all of our dark moments of anguish…those are exactly that…ours. More specifically, it’s not Zoe’s…So although we continue to weep for OUR loss, our joy is full FOR Zoe. She is with the King. She knows complete and utter wholeness. She will never again experience pain and heartache.

3 very different situations. 3 families affected by death. 3 families who don’t know each other, yet have similar responses to tragedy.

3 families who know Jesus. And He is the reason for their response.

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of His purpose, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

-Hebrews 6:17-20

“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

-1 Corinthians 15:56-58

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-Romans 8:26-37

Neither death nor life.

Those who die knowing Jesus will enter eternity with Him…they are never separated from His love.

Those who live knowing Jesus and must deal with the death of those loved ones…we are never separated from His love.

There is hope in Jesus. There is faith in an unchangeable God. 

 God loved us enough to send His Son (Jesus) to take the punishment for our sins: to die the death I deserve and you deserve. 

That act of love changed the course of human history.

That act of love changed my life.

That act of love changed their lives so that they can have joy in the midst of death.

When the stench of death overwhelms, they can look up and remember the death that brought them life.

They can trust the God who loved them enough to send His Son to bear the weight of their sin.

They can trust that this God loves them, sees them, holds them.

You can say you don’t believe in God. You can have solid reasons for your disbelief. You can point to churches and Christians who turned you away from God.
He is good.
But you can’t deny this kind of reaction to death. Those situations are too horrible for someone to fake their faith. Those situations test and reveal the validity of their faith. 
He is good.
So to the ones who don’t believe in God, know this: that God you don’t believe in…He still loves you. He sees you. He cares for you. He died for you. When your world falls apart, my God will be there for you, just like He’s there for those 3 families and for me. I’m sorry for whatever happened that makes you doubt God. But for your sake, I hope you give Him a chance. Jesus changes everything. His grace radically transformed my life and I will never be the same. Only through Jesus can you have a peace that passes all understanding and joy in the midst of trials. Jesus makes life worth living.
He is good.
To the ones who have a personal relationship with Jesus, take some time to just thank Him. Preach the gospel to yourself again and be reminded of His amazing grace. Know that in the midst of trials, He is with you and He will uphold you. Those of us who accept the gift of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone…we can look forward to the day when we will see Him face to face. He will wipe away every tear and there will be no more crying. Until then, live this life for Him.
Live each day striving to become more like Christ.
Live so that when you see Him face to face, you’ll hear:
“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
 He is good.
God’s grace in my life today:
I’ve been so encouraged by their responses to death. Their trust in God and joy in the midst of trials have blessed me beyond belief. Their faith has strengthened my faith. My heart has been renewed with a love for His grace that reaches into our deepest moments. He sees them and He sees me. This is amazing grace.

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