“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.
All these things are gone forever.”
I was with a group of My Sistah’s one night last week. We had so much fun laughing and sharing a meal together. Eventually the conversation centered on our favorite subject Jesus. Unplanned as it was, each of us shared how our faith in Christ had been shaped, not through the good times, but through trials. Losing loved ones, receiving life altering diagnoses, surviving betrayals…these were the things we thought would be the end of us, but later thanked God for. Why? Because nothing can replace the assurance and blessing of knowing God alone brought you through a dark night into the light of a new day. It changes your relationship with him, and it changes the way you look at the future.
How are you feeling about your future today? I read a book once that said the Christian life is like a journey filled with hills and valleys. When standing on the hill, it’s so easy to look behind and see where we came and how we got there. Translated: we appreciate how God worked in the valley we just walked out of and marvel at the new perspective we have as a result. But when we are in the valley, our vision is short sighted and our perspective limited. Hill or Valley?
Maybe today, like me, you would say Valley. It’s dark, it’s been a long trial, and you are wondering how much longer. Well, Sistah…you’re not alone!! Literally. God is with us in whatever we are going through in the form of the Holy Spirit. Like an engagement ring given to a bride before her wedding day, the Holy Spirit is something given to us when we say Yes to God. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “… When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance ….” (NIV) As God's chosen bride, he promises to be with us from now into eternity. He is right by our side no matter what! (The modern Greek word for "deposit" is arrabon; when translated it means"engagement ring"!)
The Israelites were betrothed or engaged to God in Egypt. Soon after, they camped in the wilderness and God’s presence joined them in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire at night. The Bible says that they marched out of Egypt boldly. However, their confidence quickly faded when God’s presence led them down a road that ended at the edge of the Red Sea. With nowhere to turn, and Pharaoh and his army gaining ground behind them, they were hemmed in, confused, and afraid of dying. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? (Exodus 14:10)
Fear and anger can be a tough thing. This week I went to a doctor’s appointment with someone and listened as they received the difficult news they had very little time left to live. Questioned were asked, options discussed, and we left the room wondering what to do next. Sitting in the lobby of the doctor’s building, we did our best to offer support and encouragement. But as the news settled in, emotions escalated and sadness quickly turned to anger. Words were spoken that were difficult to hear and won’t easily be forgotten. Like the Israelites, facing death led them to lash out at others.
How do we face the future, even death, without feeling out of control and afraid? The other day, I thought of a hymn I used to sing in church. ….”In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.” The words are a reference to the Israelites experience. Because God parted the Red Sea, making a path across to the other side, they were able to unite on the opposite shore. This event pictures a day in our future when all the trials of this world will be behind us, “by and by”, and we’ll get the chance to be reunited with loved ones who have gone before to heaven’s “beautiful shore.” We face the future with confidence not fear, because God is with us and makes a way where there seems to be no way.
The peace I have about-facing death isn’t something I’ve always had as a Christian. Most of it came as a result of being with my older sister Debbie when she passed away about 15 years ago. Debbie had Down’s Syndrome, and although I knew at a young age her life expectancy would be short, I wasn’t prepared when her health spiraled and the time drew near.
Taking care of her those last few months of her life however ended up being such a precious experience. Her childlike faith made her journey home easier for all of us. We had long talks about heaven, who she would get to see and what it would be like. When she was afraid, I would tell her, “Jesus will come and take you by the hand, it wont be scary.”
The day she passed away, this is exactly what happened! Bedridden, she had no energy, no ability to talk, and she slept most of the time. My grandparents and I were at her bedside, waiting and watching. But, suddenly, without any warning, she sat up in bed! Her eyes were as big as any I had ever seen. I began calling her name, asking if she needed anything. It felt like I was invisible because she fixed her gaze at the ceiling and said, “Okay I am coming home… Ya I am coming home. Okay, yes, I will come home”. Then, she went limp, her body fell back into the bed and her heart stopped just a few hours later.
This experience was such a gift. It strengthened my faith and eradicated any fear I had of dying. I know where my sister is, and I know where I am going: Home. What a “blessed assurance” that is!