There is the fear of losing the familiar and loved one, and yet the joy of knowing that for those who have gone to be with the Lord, there is an incredible environment waiting for them where Jesus Himself is and where loved ones who have preceded us wait for us. Our comfort is to know that those we love so very much are seeing our Lord’s face. Though they are out of our arms, they are into His.
Paul knew what it was to suffer the “loss of all things.” Several hundred years after the Babylonian captivity, a new church in Corinth was encountering grave difficulties. Christians were being persecuted, hunted down like animals, and killed. Some of the men, women, and children would have been Paul’s own converts. Yet Paul knew they were with Christ, which was “far better.”
Sitting by my dying mother’s bedside, I realized she would soon be released into life—real life, eternal life. As I sat there, I picked up my New Testament and went to my internal “waiting room.” As I listened to my mother’s labored breathing, I reread in John’s Gospel the story of Jesus standing outside the tomb of Lazarus. He shouted,
“Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus came—bound up in the grave cloth, his face muffled in a head swath. Jesus told [those watching], “Unwrap him and let him go!” (John 11:43-44, TBL)
As I read these words, I looked up. My mother’s face was still. I was suddenly searingly aware that her labored breathing had stopped. I looked down at my Bible, huge tears of grief splashing onto its pages. Through my tears I read again that great shout of the Lord’s: “Lazarus, come out!”—and then I saw in my mind’s eye what had just happened. I saw, in my terrifying “now.” My mother had “come out” as Jesus had called her name, and in my mind’s eye I saw that one she’d given me birth, who had been bound hand and foot with the grave clothes of cancer. Jesus was telling those who stood around her tomb—the angels themselves—to “unwrap her and let her go”!
“And she that was dead came forth,” I murmured, my eye following the story in John 11. A great flood of joy began to immerse me in its warm waves of praise. The nurse came into the room. “She’s home. No more might, no more pain, no more tears, no more dying!” I said simply. The nurse cried. And so I sang her my song born out of my grief and overwhelming loss. A song of comfort and of joy. The words of my song were: “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.”
The tomb can be a place of both fear and comfort for the believer. There is the fear of losing the familiar and loved one, and yet the joy of knowing that for those who have gone to be with the Lord, there is an incredible environment waiting for them where Jesus Himself is and where loved ones who have preceded us wait for us. Our comfort is to know that those we love so very much are seeing our Lord’s face. Though they are out of our arms, they are into His. The Christian has this song to sing!
Just Between Us Magazine