I intended to knock out this short article on the “end of physical life,” aka death back in May...early May. Then Ravi Zacharias passed away. Then George Floyd. Then Breonna Taylor. These few were all in May, and impactful to me each for their own reasons. Most recently, we have witnessed the passing of C.T. Vivian, J.I. Packer, and John Lewis, and these three would all occur on the same day in July. It could be understood, but I will say anyway, that anyone could be expected to have their fill of the topic of death given what we have collectively experienced as a society this year. Nevertheless, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there is something here that God intends for us to consider and learn.
During the first semester of my junior year of college, I took a rather unusual class entitled “Death and Dying.” Although I have no particular fascination with death and it was suggested I participate in the course as an easy “A”; the amateur sociologist in me knew that the subject matter would undoubtedly be thought-provoking. The purpose of the course was to discuss the structure of the human response to death, dying, and bereavement with a focus on social and interpersonal context. That’s right, the next time you find the conversation at dinner with your loved ones to be stale; I have just given you the perfect gateway topic to vibrant and rich family discourse. Interestingly, one basic theme that was common across cultures was the correlation between the positive handling of grief by family and friends and the positive ethical or virtuous traits of the recently deceased. You could also summarize this by saying that how someone lives will determine how properly or poorly people handle it when that someone dies. This principle is one that should remain with us as we live our lives because whether we intend it or not, this principle remains at work with those we love.
Although dealing with the death of others is a subject that most of us tend to avoid, the Bible talks of it quite often (https://www.openbible.info/topics/dealing_with_death), perhaps we should listen.
Ecclesiastes 7:1 reads, “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” For a Godly man, this is undoubtedly true, and Ravi Zacharias was a Godly man. It is said that those that are found in Christ yet suffer disease here on earth find themselves healed by Christ no matter what; He either does it here on earth or He does it on the other side of eternity once you stand in His presence. When cancer ravaged Ravi’s body and caused him to exit his physical body, he immediately stood before God cancer-free as God always intended. Fortunate enough to see the Livestream of Ravi’s homegoing service, I saw the first portion of Ecclesiastes 7:1 bear out in truth. Rarely is there the chance to see the legacy of a person’s work for God be displayed for all to see; it is to be greatly treasured when we do.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” - Isaiah 41:10. What more is there to be said about the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at this moment? They are the steady confirmation that both men and women of color face a reality that is a far cry from those of American majority culture. However, Isaiah reminds us that God’s strong hand is his hand of righteousness and he uses it to hold us secure and deliver us from the need to fear. We are in the safety of God’s arms, and He is a Father not to be trifled with. When we no longer feel safe in our own homes or within our own country, we can know that “the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). When I consider the innocent children and spouses left behind after we are senselessly murdered, I am resolved in my faith that “a Father to the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation” (Psalm 68:5).
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” - Psalm 116:15. We thought that the rule of 3 was only a thing for comedic timing and literary devices. When C.T. Vivian, J.I. Packer, and John Lewis all passed into eternity, I am certain that God was speaking. Although he was not telling a joke, a huge smile decorated his face as He welcomed these three titans of men into His rest within hours of one another. What waits for those that seek God and the operation of His presence here on earth is that they certainly will find Him and even find the realization that He was more present in their experience than they could have ever known. From the lives of these men, I have learned that the beginning of our living is where we start to seek God and seek to be vehicles of His presence on this side of eternity - through Godly wisdom, knowledge of God and devotion, and the pursuit of justice. Then when we reach our physical end, God meets us there proudly saying, “but wait, there’s more….”
On the day that this was written, I lost a valued acquaintance and former co-worker from a previous job. He was no more than 32 years old, and from what I was able to gather, he passed away from “natural causes.” He was a good man and the type of person you wanted around. No one was easily able to say anything bad about him. From what I knew of him, he was not a man that had any enemies…except the one that we all share, the enemy of our soul. Although I had not talked with him directly in some years and have no real idea of the state of his soul, I can see from the outpouring of love that I found online for him today that Satan clearly still lost. Many were caused to pause and consider the brevity of life and all of its implications. Conversations are being initiated that otherwise might not have ever come to pass. Because of this tragedy, God will be glorified, and His purposes still fulfilled. My prayer is that at some point on his life journey that my friend accepted Christ. I am more certain now than ever before of the reward that awaits those that do and that God meets us in the moment of our final breath to say, “but wait, there’s more.”
This piece was written in dedication to Brad.