I give great credit to her for staying with her husband and caring for him in the Alzheimer's facility he was cared for at, even in the face of cross words and unkind thoughts verbally expressed. Great, great credit. Difficult to keep with such an unlovely person. . . but by the Grace of God, she did. The easy approach is to run from and disown such a one. . . and again, to her great credit, she relied on the Grace of God to allow her to love her unlovely husband in the midst of the trial and heartbreak that is Alzheimer's. That is a great story that she may be proud of to tell others for the rest of her life!
So we attended the funeral at her church. The pastor there, whom I've not ever met, stood up and offered some words. Considering what trials her husband went through, and that of the surviving wife present, thinking of the "slow goodbye" which is Alzheimer's, where one's memory eventually fades and is no more, he offered the following thought: "Death can be a friend," the pastor confided to the assembled friends and family in attendance. He proceeded to say other words in the vein of comforting those present, considering his audience with certain care and forethought. No words chosen at the last minute from what I could see. Again, I'm giving this pastor the benefit of the doubt. I really believe his aim was to be of comfort and encouragement at that moment. This particular church has gone through a lot of change of late, not much for the better either. It is now comprised of elderly women as its mainstay, with not many men in attendance anymore. Not many in their younger years go there anymore, either. So this church probably deals in death more often than it would like, I would hazard. Again, I'm seeking to be charitable, especially since this pastor and I have never met or discussed the content of his words spoken yesterday.
After a nap, my wife and I left for a Gospel Quartet music fest in Bakersfield. Delightful evening, and loads of unity in the Spirit and hand clapping to boot. . . with moments of funnin' and letting one's hair down! Wonderful time there. But I digress.
As I was driving down the road, I asked my wife, "did you hear that pastor talk about death?" "Yes," she replied. "Did you hear what he said about death, though?" I shot back. "What?" she quizzically mumbled as she relaxed in semisleep with the seat laid back for rest.
"He said death can be your friend, or death is your friend. . . words like that. Remember?" I recalled to her. "Uh, huh. . . I remember that, yes," she said.
"Now think a minute. Death is your friend. What kind of person thinks that kind of thought or says it?" I warbled my forming thoughts out to her.
"How about folks overdosing on drugs, suicide victims, people like that?" I pointedly zinged back.
Ouch. . .
"You mean. . . " she began as she sleepily formed some thoughts.
"That's right, dear. This pastor we heard probably meant to say words like 'God was merciful to him by allowing death to finally occur,' but instead it was less precisely said. . . to a point where if one didn't listen closely or know the situation of this man's life or know this pastor well, you might reasonably conclude he believed that death is your friend. Nothing could be further than the truth, though, right?" I convincingly proffered.
"Right, honey," she swiftly vocalized to me. "Death is never good. How then could it be your friend?"
"Exactly!" I exclaimed. "You've got it! Death is never your friend. In fact, the Scriptures say that Jesus is the victor over Death. If Jesus defeated death, and Jesus abhors death, how could a state of being that Jesus hates ever be our friend?"
* * *
"The thief comes only to kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly," Jesus told us in John 10:10. "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Jesus asked Martha in John 11:25-26. I get chills up my spine when I remember these verses from John 11.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:6-10, ESV)
The King James Version renders 2 Corinthians 5:8 as ". . . to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." Rather countercultural, that. Yep, this present world isn't all what it's cracked up to be, for sure! Note that the believer is taken from the body, which dies, and is immediately in the Lord's presence. Pretty neat, eh? From death to life. . . Jesus is about life!
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 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 15:50-58, ESV)
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)
17 . . . “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17b-18, ESV)
I think it's rather evident from the above Scripture passages that Jesus is not a friend of Death. Instead, he put death away forever and holds the very keys of Death and Hades!
Is Death a friend? I think not! Time to unfriend Death. . . it separates us from the love of God. Jesus is the friend of sinners, but not of Death. We need to be that same way.
Jesus is the author of life. . . and Satan is the author of death. . . God always being good, Satan always being evil. Goes with the territory. Those who say, "God took (name of loved one) away from me!" are speaking from uninformed emotion, methinks, and not from searching the Scriptures with all one's heart and soul and mind. Angry at death? Me too! But get angry at Satan, not God. Satan is the originator of death. God isn't.