Hopeful Grieving

I learned my mom’s disease was terminal the moment she was diagnosed. I remember the doctor coming out of surgery and ushering me into a quiet room that was just off from the waiting room. I sat anxiously awaiting the results from her surgery. “Your mom is in serious trouble,” he said. He was a kind doctor and his eyes told me he was deeply saddened by the news he had to deliver. He was honest but gentle when he told me she didn’t have long.

That moment in the waiting room is when my grieving process began. I began to grieve the loss of the mom I had always known. The fiercely courageous women who never gave up began to fade and I began to see a different mom. A mom who was fighting for her life and a mom who was really sick.

God had begun to talk to me about death in June of 2016 (my mom was diagnosed five months later). The story of Lazarus began to show up consistently in my life. This is usually a sign from God that He is trying to get me to pay attention. I’m slow to pick up on these things, so He has to do it over and over again to get my attention. The story showed up in my daily devotions, my Bible studies and in my conversations with friends. As I read the story and discussed it with others, the one thing I kept hearing was, “Rachel, I need you to understand that death is a lie.”

I was confused and thought God was working to heal my heart from past losses of loved ones. But there was a lingering question: Was He trying to tell me that I would experience death again soon? I didn’t want anything to do with that thought and completely shut it down and moved on. I would not hear of losing another person in my immediate family. CLEARLY God would never let that happen. So, I brushed it off as if I had been mistaken and it was all just coincidence that the Lazarus story showed up around me consistently.

I was wrong. And as I continue to grow in my faith, it becomes a little easier to know when God is speaking to my heart. I knew it then. I just didn’t want to deal with it.

In case you aren’t familiar with the story of Lazarus, here is a summary (but I encourage you to go read it in John 11). Lazarus, one of Jesus’ dear friends, fell extremely ill. His sisters Mary and Martha reached out to Jesus, asking him to come help his dear friend. When people came and told Jesus about Lazarus, he told them that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death. Jesus said he loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and so he was not going to go to him and save his life. Mary and Martha were floored when Jesus didn’t come help.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t make it, he CHOSE not to come for two long days … because he loved them. What?! Can you imagine how they must have felt? I can! If he loved his friend Lazarus, surely, he would come and make him well! If he loved them as much as he said he did, surely, he would come. But instead, he stayed away. When Jesus finally showed up, Lazarus had already died. Martha ran out to Jesus, but Mary was so upset she wouldn’t even come outside to see him. (I totally get it!!)

The next few words Jesus says to them have completely changed my perspective on death. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

This scripture is an abrupt reminder that my view of death should be nothing like the way the world views death. Everything around me told me that my mom dying was the worst thing that could ever happen to her, to me and to my family. The word death sends a wave of finality and fear whenever it is spoken or experienced. But Jesus wanted us to know that if we love Him and understand that He gave His life for our sins, we will live forever, even when we die. That is, our physical body may perish, but our soul will live for eternity WITH HIM IN HEAVEN. How much more amazing will it be to be with our Heavenly Father than here in a broken world? We must be crazy to think that being here on Earth is better!

Don’t get me wrong, death hurts more than anything one can experience. The loss associated with death is paralyzing and utterly heartbreaking. I have never experienced a deeper hurt than the death of someone I love. But at the end of the day we have a choice when we lose someone we love: Do we choose to believe what God says about death, or do we choose to shut Him out and be overcome with bitterness?

Would it be better for me if my mom were still here? It feels like it. Would it be better for my mom if she were still here? No. If I believe what Jesus is telling me, it’s better for her to be with Him.

I choose to believe God’s word. I choose to believe that my mom’s death is not the end of her, but just the beginning of her eternity with Jesus. In the grieving, I choose to remain hopeful.

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