Learning From Death

Just a few weeks ago, I got a call early in the morning from my dad. It is not the type of call that anyone wants to receive. It is the type of call that rocks your world and takes the wind out of your sails. My dad had gotten up early to spend some time with God and get himself ready to leave for work. It seemed like a pretty normal morning, until he went to say good-bye to my mom. It was only then that his world and ours was turned upside down. He had found her no longer alive. She had passed away in her sleep.

This life-altering event has caused me to take time to reflect on what is really important in life. There are a few thoughts that I would like to share that will help us, as we all will, some day, experience the death of a loved one. It may also be used to help us reflect and prioritize our current status of living.

The first thing that I realized is that every person will face the death of a loved one at some time in his or her lives. No one is exempt from this experience. In Hebrews it says, “… just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We will all die someday. That is not a very comforting thought, but it did lead me to another reality. My experience is not exclusive. Others have gone before me and went through this experience.

As I am walking through this experience, I am finding comfort from others who have been there. Death caused me to see my need to lean on others. 2 Corinthians states, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4). I have been experiencing this comfort from others and will one day be able to return the favor. A question that I need to keep before me is, “In what ways have I been allowing the troubles I am going through to be a point of contact for me to comfort those who are going through similar things?” Death is a common equalizer. It makes me realize that life is not centered around me.

The next thing that I am learning is that family is important, especially in these tough times. It is so easy to take our families for granted. I am a very busy person, and on top of that, I am separated from my family through distance. It is really easy to take my family for granted. But this experience has caused me to take inventory of my need for my family. Many times our families are not perfect, and that definitely influences how we react and how much time we spend with our family. However, I realized that it is easier to complain about what is missing instead of taking hold of what is there. My family is there, and even the issues we go through have to be faced with the question of, “What is God trying to teach me through my family?”

Most of the problems that we have with people are pretty petty, especially in regards to family. A lot of people I know have current family problems; I am not exempt from this category. But the strange thing is, none of the issues that I currently had with my mom seem to matter any more. They are not even what I think about. The thing that I have been taking comfort in is that there are no longer any issues between my mom and me. She is in heaven and is not holding anything against me, and I would be foolish to hold on to anything against her. They don’t matter! Over the past year, I had been asking myself a question that I am glad I was asking: “If my mom were to die, is there anything I am doing that I will regret?” I did not always make the right decisions, but I made many better ones because I was asking that question.

Life is extremely short. It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday business of life. It is so easy to not live life in view of the miracle that it really is. If we really lived in view of life as a miracle, is there anything that we would be doing differently? I really have to confess that I have a regret that I will never get back because I did not take advantage of life to the fullest. I had an opportunity to call my mom on Easter and passed it up because I had a busy day and was tired. I wanted to watch TV and I figured that I would just talk to her the next day. This decision seems really lame now— and I will always wish I could have it back. The reality is that we only have this moment to make a memory in life. What kind of memory are we making?

The last thought that is really the most important is this one: God is in control. Facing a death in a very personal way has honestly tested my faith. I was faced with questions that I thought were answered and settled, but suddenly became questions again. Questions like, “Is God real, or is He just something I have created to make me feel better about death? Is giving my life in ministry to Him the best thing I can do with my life, or am I wasting my time? Does God really work everything out for good?” The truth is that this shaking of my faith ended up increasing my faith. By seriously addressing these questions again, I came to the realization that my trust is in God alone. His timing is perfect and He is in complete control.

It is still difficult facing this in life, but there is a comfort and strength facing these questions with God in the picture. I hope that these thoughts and questions that I have been asking myself help others as well. That would bring meaning to an experience like this and hopefully it will bring you closer to God as well.

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[Kevin Diederich is currently pastor of Life Point Church in Naperville sharing the hope found in Jesus.]

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