Over the past several weeks I have found myself as a pastor walking in “the valley of the shadow of death” quite often with people I know and love. Traveling through this valley can often weigh heavy on the heart and soul. Even though as a follower of the Risen Lord Jesus I know that death no longer has its sting, I still find myself grasping for hope in the midst of my own personal sorrow.
As Jesus prepared His disciples for His sudden and unexpected departure, He pulled back the curtain and sought to reveal to them images and truths about life and death that only the faithful come to know. On one such occasion Jesus proclaimed to His closest friends: “Because I live, you also will live…” (John 14:19 NIV).
Jesus instilled hope and courage in the hearts of his followers by revealing to them in no uncertain terms that His life abides in us…His life is our life both here and forevermore. As Paul declared, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” (Philippians 1:21 NIV).
In recent days as I had stood by the graveside of those who hold a very special place in my life, I have come to terms that death robs me of temporal fellowship with my loved ones, but not of the family reunion in glory that will last forever. Just over the horizon awaits a glorious Day when Jesus returns and all will be made right. On that glorious Day, death will be silenced and song of life will ring victorious over all creation.
On a dark night last week, I believe the LORD gave me a glimpse of the wonder of eternal life. For a moment the LORD pulled back the curtain and allowed me to have a sense of the incredible mystery of life after death—His life abiding in us.
As I stood post by the bedside of Dr. Chris Powers in the last moments of his life on this side of eternity I was simply talking to him about our friendship and the times we had shared. In appreciation for his influence in my life, I tried in my simple way to prepare him for the journey he was about to take.
During Chris’ medical career he had delivered hundreds of precious little baby boys and girls. Into his strong caring hands these little ones had emerged from the warmth and darkness of the womb into a whole new world full of sights and sounds. These strong hands placed these infants into the loving arms of their mothers and fathers. It occurred to me in that instant Chris too was on a similar journey. As he slipped out of this life, he was about to be “born” into a whole new reality—born into eternal life, or as Paul put it “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
With a new found joy, I said, “Chris, can you imagine what is about to happen to you. You are about to be born into a whole new world full of breathtaking colors and embraced by love.” Then it occurred to me that it would be “nail-scarred hands” that would welcome him into glory—the loving, strong hands of our LORD Jesus. So I said, “Chris, don’t be afraid the nail-scarred hands of Jesus will catch you and welcome you home!” Can you imagine what that moment will be like? Safe and secure in the hands of Jesus….yes, we will live forever!