Eyes on Heaven

Have you cried yet?
Are you sad?
Why aren’t you processing it?
How do you feel?

These are but a few of the questions that various people have asked me since the unexpected death of a good friend on April 12th. Friends who they themselves are struggling with their own loss. Admittedly, we all grieve in our own ways, but because I am not exuberant in showing my sorrow, I know some are uncomfortable with what appears to be my apathy towards the loss of a dear sister in Christ.
I am not apathetic.
My heart weeps for the sorrow my friends carry. My heart weeps for the husband who lost his soul mate at such a young age. My heart weeps for the life long friend whose future children will miss out on the fun that Auntie JHK would have created for them. For the children she would have taught, for the children she and her husband would have had. I weep for the parents and sister who lost a key piece to their family puzzle. I weep for those who could have been shown the love of Christ because of JHK’s willingness to reach out.
Believe me, I grieve.                                                                                                                             In many ways I have not stopped grieving since I had to say goodbye to six other sweet brothers and sisters in Christ since November. Loosing so many people who I interacted with personally in such a small window of time, leaves me needing quite a bit of time to process it.                                                                                                                Admittedly, I do not process verbally like many of my friends do. Which is fine, because it leaves me the ability and desire to allow them to process verbally to me, allowing me to listen with a willing heart and compassionate ears. But, as what I am doing right now can prove, I process things better when I write.                                                                                    One thing that has continually struck me since November, when many friends have worriedly asked me how I was handling all this loss, is that I would rather go to a thousand more memorial services for believers in Christ than just one more funeral for a non-believer. Believe me when I say that I grieve and mourn passionately after those sorrow filled services. For goodness-sakes! I am nearly driven to tears just imagining attending my grandparents’, uncles’, and aunts’, funerals who do not know Christ.  Can you imagine what it will be like for me being there?                                                                                                                         If you are not someone who has had experience with the death of someone close to you, you might not know what I mean. I understand that. I’ve had quite a few deaths since I was a little kid, of family members and friends. Experiencing the difference between services for a Christian and a non-believer are stark and remarkable.                                                   And these verses keep coming to mind as I sit at another service–(specifically the bold verses)                                                                                                                                             1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ~We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.  For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.    

So that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope- Paul’s not saying that we shouldn’t cry for those that have died. But, he is saying that we should not grieve as if we would never see them again. If we are Christian and the one who died is known to be Christian, we should be rejoicing for them even as we mourn having to say goodbye – for an allotted amount of time.                                                                                                           My grief,while very real, is temporary. A Christian’s grief is temporary. Because we don’t truly think about Heaven and what it like, we don’t truly take comfort in the idea of our loved ones being there. We as Christians have such a skewed vision of what it will be like. We’ve built up these ideas of what it is like mostly due to comical cartoons of our age; Saint Peter will judge us due to the coin in our purse, the size of our houses will depend on the severity of our sins, or we’ll be floating around on clouds in the shape of little fat naked babies who know how to play the harp. These ideas are not from the Bible! But what is?
I recommend that we should truly study what Heaven is like, what being in the presence God the Father would be like, what having Jesus Christ the Son before you. If we don’t know what we are going TO why would we WANT to leave? Randy Alcorn does a fascinating study on this concept in his book Heaven, which I am in the process of studying with my Ladies Sunday School class. (When I’m finished I’ll probably write more about it.)                                                                                                                                     My dear friends who have died, who are brothers and sisters in Christ, are not gone. And I will not grieve over the loss of them as if I will never see them again. I will mourn the loss of contact with them, the loss of being able to share stories with them and living life with them. But, the truth of the matter is, I am envious of them for the fact that they get to stand in the presence of God right now, and I have to wait until the time He calls me home to stand beside them. Though my grief is not like those who have no hope, I do still have sorrow.
One thing I take to heart through all of this is this: you never know when God is going to call you home. So spend your time wisely: love each other deeply, store up those special moments so that you won’t have regrets, don’t put off of those things you want to do with your loved ones, do what you are being prompted to do, live for God and do his work while you have time to do so.                                                                                                              Heaven is waiting and so are my beloved friends, and this sorrow I feel is temporary to the grief I would have if I didn’t believe in the God who can give us eternal life. I will keep my eyes on Heaven, because that is where I want to be celebrating eternal life rather than here on Earth wasting away while I grieve because of eternal death.
How do you grieve? Have you taken time to think about it?

Related posts:

The Saint who quotes Disney

Please, meet me in heaven!

Do I believe what I profess?

The Church in the Valley (Christmas Eve 2011)

Quote

In the soft glow of twinkling lights, hymns raise upon the hushed air.
Brightness flares briefly as candle light is passed across the pew, soft chuckles resound as stubborn wicks refuse to light.
A stillness lays lightly upon all who sing, fussy children quiet slowly, as Silent Night gently swells.
The piano lays hushed as the only instrument used is the simple voice of Christ’s Body raised in praise.
Here in the midst of the valley, the small church sings of the birth of the Savior.
Within this valley, nestled amongst forested hills, lies a bit of God’s heavenly love.
Within this church, wounded hearts are gently stitched back together with stronger thread, tears of fear are wiped away by quiet acceptance, peace is found within the arms of loving friends.
This is the church in the valley. This is a small part of Christ’s living body, moving through life one day at a time together.
This valley has seen it’s shares of troubles, but still this little church perseveres. It has weathered the storms of life, surviving the buffering of heavy winds,
It has risen above the high flowing waters, while softly singing of the birth of the Christ.
It’s been touched by tears of sorrow and pain. A year past has seen too many goodbyes for comfort, but still the church rejoices as more saints stand before the Lord in heaven.
Within this church, tears are meet without fear and praises echo from wall to wall.
Within this valley, nestled amongst forested hills, lies a bit of God’s heavenly love.
He puts each person, full of brokenness, within this church so they can rub up against each other, sharpening our dull spots while rubbing away the roughness of the world.
He chooses whom will come in contact with whom, and he has chosen me to become part of this little church in the valley.
When songs floated on the chilled air, singing the birth of the Savior, faith was found and a path was set.
Through loving kindness God forced me to grow. He broke me down and built me up, like clay in the potter’s hands.
He taught me trust through the elder’s words, and Scripture’s Supremacy through sermons of Pastor’s passion, he taught me strength of character through friends’ weakening bodies, and faith through a widow’s teachings, and kept me in humor and love through it all.
This is the little church in the valley. Overlooked by many, loved by the special ones. God’s little bit of heavenly love found between the forested hills.
Where a young girl of new faith can be tempered into a woman refining her faith. This is the church that has built me and whose love will continue to guide me as I walk with Christ.
This is the church that survives life together and who can truly feel the presence of God amongst us.
This is the church in the valley, amongst the forested hills, where the Body of Christ sings of the blessed birth of our Savior. This is my beloved church family living amongst God’s little bit of heavenly love.

Please, meet me in heaven!

It’s been a couple of emotionally wrought months in my little valley.  We’ve had the highs, in the form of many weddings (I personally attended six in a month and a half).  And now we have the lows.

~We have celebrated the life of a older gentleman (J.P.) who gave of his time and finances to those in need.

~As a community we celebrated the faithfulness of a sweet 28 year old who died unexpectedly. She (S.F.)was a true sister in the Christ, who loved her Heavenly Father with every inch of her big heart. Even though her death was so unexpected with her being so young, her memorial service was full of laughter and rejoicing amidst the tears because we knew where she was going.

~This weekend, we gathered together to celebrate the graduation into Glory of a 92 year old woman (R.B) who is now wonderfully free of the Alzheimer’s that removed precious memories from this vibrant woman.  She is dancing before her Lord, the One she spoke about with such passionate love.

~And soon, we will once more come together to rejoice the home-coming of another saint. A warrior in the fight against the insidious breast cancer, (C.P.) was a woman who lived out her faith in a quiet way that rippled into everyone who came in contact with her. A role model of how to keep one’s faith strong even in the moments of such pain and uncertainty.

Even in so much sorrow, joy resounds.

Our tears of sadness are not tears of the hopeless.

We of the Faith do not say “Good-Bye” but rather “I’ll see you soon!”

In the quiet of the night when sorrow ‘s presence refuses to leave, we are held close by the Father who understands it all.

Rather than be alone in our grief, we turn to our family, the one that God created. The Church becomes a refuge of available shoulders and shared memories. Within the Church one can cry and others join in, and when laughter resounds, they share the joy.

Romans 12:15- “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”

 The difference is simple. I have been to too many funerals of those who have no hope in the eternal life with Christ, they never accepted the sacrifice that was freely given. And so, the sorrow was thick upon the brows of all those who mourn. My heart was so heavy with the grief of knowing that this wonderful person would not be in Heaven upon my arrival. I would grieve for the loss of that soul for the rest of my life.

The Father’s grief is so much stronger than mine. He mourns for every lost soul. These people whom He loves so very much refuse to turn to Him, they refuse to accept His gift of eternal life.

Matthew 23:37  –“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. “

 I would rather participate in a thousand more home- coming celebrations for the saints of Christ, than grieve for one more beloved lost soul.

So, I pray. I act. I tell.

Please my dear friend, let me tell you the story of the God who stepped off of His throne to be borne of a virgin. Let me tell you of the God I love, who of His own free will, died a horrendous death upon a cross, who stayed in the grave for three days to arise on the third. Let me tell you of my Savior who is at this moment in Heaven awaiting the time when He will come to judge the earth and all of its inhabitants of their sins.

Let me tell you of a Love never ending and all encompassing.

Please, just listen.

Please, meet me in Heaven.