One of the most difficult aspects of pastoral ministry is being well acquainted with the frailty of human life. I write this as our church family just buried Ed, a 94-year-old veteran of World War II. The man survived the enemy attack on the shore of a foreign battlefield and lived his entire life with shrapnel in his body from that incident. Ed’s life wasn’t always easy, but he was tough as nails. A true hero, Ed was one of the last members of the Greatest Generation. But despite being the hero he was, like all men, his death was a tender reminder that we are all fragile.
Still, there is a certain refuge in death for the weary. As I sat at his funeral, I found comfort in the Christian doctrine of the future resurrection of the dead (Matthew 27:52). For Ed, and for all who are in Christ, death does not have the last word. Our fragility does not lead to our finality. In Job 14, we are reminded of what everyone in the ancient world believed: life continues after death.
Anyone born of woman
is short of days and full of trouble.
He blossoms like a flower, then withers;
he flees like a shadow and does not last.
Do you really take notice of one like this?
Will you bring me into judgment against you?
Who can produce something pure from what is impure?
No one! (Job 14:1–4).
In light of the hope of eternity, human life difficult and brief. And because no human being is able to live outside the earthly limits God has set, we must set our hopes on life beyond the grave. From the depths of the earth, God will raise us again in Christ Jesus.
In John 5, Jesus reminds us that whoever hears His Word and believes that He is the life-giving Savior from God will pass from death to life (vv.24–25). There is a day coming when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. The same God who brought life into existence with His Word, will call forth new creation with His voice. The same Jesus who commanded dead Lazarus to come forth from his grave, will call all of His children forth to eternal life.
I find great hope in the beautiful poem that the grieving theologian C. S. Lewis penned to be etched on the grave of his beloved wife Helen Joy Davidman: “Like cast off clothes was left behind in ashes, yet with hope that she, re-born from holy poverty, in lenten lands, hereafter may resume them on her Easter day.”
When I think of Ed, I am reminded that his death is not a goodbye—it’s “See you soon.” This is the hope of what God’s promised in His Word. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. When our flesh fails, God will be faithful to His Word. As Isaiah 40:8 reminds us, “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.”
Written by Matt Capps