Death has been all around me my whole life. Many times, I wasn’t aware of it or even thought of it much, until I began my law enforcement career. I’ll never forget the first homicide I responded to and the strange feeling that came over me as I looked into the lifeless eyes of the body lying on the sidewalk.
In that moment, death became very real for me. Again, it’s not like death had never touched me. Three of my four grandparents had passed before then but, somehow, death had been something that I never really thought about. But, in that moment, death became very real to me and an almost daily occurrence. Despite some close calls, I felt, at times, like death couldn’t touch me.
Then my sister died.
My world got rocked. Suddenly, someone that was dear to me had been “taken” far too soon. I remember beginning to ask questions of myself, of faith, of God. I honestly don’t think I had given much thought about it until then, despite the daily violence I witnessed as a police officer. It was only years later that I came to a truly Christian understanding of death.
In our culture, people think that death is the end. So, the way the world lives should be no surprise to us. If you believe that your 70-80 years or so on this plane of existence is all there is, then eat, drink, be merry and do whatever you want. In that scenario, truth is completely subjective, and death and sickness and aging are to be avoided at all costs.
If we are Christian, we know this is not true. If we are Christian, we know that humanity was created by God to be in perfect communion with Him and each other and His creation for all eternity. Death was never meant to be part of the equation. That’s why it feels so unnatural and uncomfortable to us; because it is unnatural. We aren’t meant to die. But just because it’s unnatural doesn’t mean it has to be uncomfortable.
A couple of weeks ago, I went with my wife to a doctor’s appointment. They hooked up an ultrasound and began to scan my wife’s abdomen for signs of life to confirm the pregnancy test she had taken. Sure enough, as I looked at the screen, I could see clearly the placental sack and the small life moving in my wife’s womb. Joy leapt into my heart. God had blessed us with another child! My wife jokingly said, “Only one, right?” The nurse doing the ultrasound said, “Well, let me take a look.” She began to move the little thing around and I saw it the same time she did.
Another placental sack.
I began to smile as I looked at my wife. She was staring at the screen with a stunned look on her face. Then the nurse said, “Hmmm, something’s not right. This one looks a lot smaller.” My body felt like someone had just dumped a bucket of ice water on it and I said softly, “Oh no.” The nurse did some more scans then left, saying, “I’ll be right back.” My wife and I both just stared at the screen until the nurse came back. After another scan, she said something that I will never un-hear. “The other baby doesn’t have a heartbeat. I’m sorry.”
Death in its cold cruelty has again touched my family. My wife wept as I held her hand.
But then, almost immediately, something else happened. I was reminded of the words of our Lord Jesus when He said,
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
And the words of the prophet Job,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I cried also. I cried for the child that we won’t know on this side of eternity. I cried because my wife was suffering such pain. I cried for my living children who will not get to meet their sibling right now.
But I also experienced great joy. The joy I have found is in the knowledge that our bodies will die, just as the physical body of our Lord Jesus died and was buried. My joy is found in the knowledge that Jesus was raised from the dead, being the first fruits of those who will be resurrected like Him one day. When that day comes, I will see my child. Oh, the joy of that day!
But I am also joyful because my child will never know pain. He/she will never know hunger or fear or sadness or disappointment or have scars or be cut from a team or break a bone or have their heart broken in unrequited love.
No, in the arms of the Creator, my child will only know the joy of the embrace of the Savior! Can you imagine?! In one moment, their little heart was beating in the safety of the womb. In the next moment, their eyes opened to see the glorious face of the Creator and Savior of the world! In His presence, there is fullness of joy forever and unto the ages of ages!
I am learning more of what it means to have a truly Christian view of the world and what it means to be human and be united to Christ. I know that my child is united to Christ in a way that I do not yet fully experience. But one day…. oh, one day, I will know full union with my Savior. And then, along with my child, my sister, my grandparents and all our God-bearing Fathers, we will know the glory and eternal rest of being fully restored to the glory we knew in the Garden.
Oh, what a day that will be! Until that day, we grieve for those who have fallen asleep. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Let us rejoice in the hope of resurrection!
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!
I look around me at the world today and I am saddened. I am saddened by the direction the American society is headed and indeed the world. I am saddened by the complete confusion and fear that most people are living with these days. I am even more saddened at the behavior of most of the people who claim the name of Christ these days. I cannot remember a time in my life when I saw so many so-called Christians wandering around in confusion and fear, succumbing in such an obvious way to the darkness of this present world.
So many Christians I hear saying things like, “I don’t understand what’s happening,” or lamenting the condition of the world or, even worse, joining in the shame and cancel culture that infects our world today. In fact, if I may digress for a moment…I am ashamed of the Christians who shame other Christians for not choosing to take the so-called Covid-19 vaccine. Most of those Christians who are attacking other Christians for choosing not to be vaccinated say the same crap that’s coming out of the mouths of pagans.
Think about that for a second. If the things you are saying to each other as Christians match what pagans and the world is saying, you are doing it wrong. There are many good reasons to refuse the vaccine, least of which is a lack of actual scientific data that supports the long-term efficacy of said vaccine. By the admission of the very pharmaceutical companies that are dispensing these cocktails, these vaccines are, at this current time, experimental. From a Christian perspective, what happened to loving our brothers and sisters, showing them grace and speaking kindly to one another, whether or not we agree with them? Are our brothers and sisters not allowed to make decisions for themselves and their children without us calling each other names and attacking one another?
If you are one of those, I implore you to stop. Stop attacking your fellow Christians and understand that, just as you took the vaccine for your reasons, they are refusing it for their reasons. Besides, if you have taken the vaccine, why do you care if they do? Aren’t you protected?
Anyways, back to my main point.
There is a pervasive darkness over the world today. If you cannot see that, you are simply not paying attention, or you’ve just fallen asleep at the wheel of life. Over and over I hear Christians say that they don’t understand what’s happening. And I submit to them, you don’t understand what’s happening in the world because you have forgotten the Holy Scriptures. You have forgotten that the real enemies aren’t the Taliban or Al Qaeda or the coronavirus. We have an enemy, for sure. But it ain’t those things.
St. Peter helpfully reminds us of our enemy,
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
St. Peter tells us, first, that we must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and that we are to cast all our cares on Him. Stop being so anxious about a virus; there have been and will continue to be viruses. Humble yourself under the hand of God and take your fears to Him. Be sober, be vigilant he tells us. In other words, to put it in our current context: pay attention and be on your guard against the influences of the world. Stop listening to the talking heads on TV and listen to the Holy Spirit. Spend time in prayer and Holy Scripture, go to Church, spend time with faithful brothers and sisters who aren’t consumed by the world, laugh with your children, play fetch with the dog. St. Peter also clearly tells us who our enemy is.
Our adversary is the devil, not each other. Not a virus, not the Taliban, not the President and Congress (though they sure act like the enemy of the people). At the bottom of all this is a spiritual struggle. The devil hates God and he hates you. He wants to destroy humanity and he will stop at nothing. He will use any means within his power. We must recognize this.
St. Paul also reminds us in Ephesians,
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
St. Paul reminds us that our enemies are not each other or a virus or any of this mess we’re in. Our enemy is against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness. Vaccines, masks and lockdowns won’t stop our real enemy. Only the armour of God will do that. Only when we are girded with the truth consuming our heart and mind and soul, only when we have put on the breastplate of righteousness and have shod ourselves with the gospel of peace, the peace of God that has been offered for all on the cross by our Lord Jesus, only when we have taken up the shield of faith and thrown our lives and souls into the care of the All-Holy One, only when we have taken up the helmet of salvation which is our union with Christ, only when we are armed with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, only when we pray without ceasing, only when we persevere; then and only then can we see clearly and understand not only who our enemy is but the great power that has been given to us in the Church and our union with Christ to defeat our enemy.
Christ has defeated sin and death! And, if we are in Him, so have we! Let us live without fear. Let us live without vitriol toward our fellow Christians, let us live in the peace that only God can bring through His most precious Son by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity who holds us in the palm of His hand!
Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might! He has overcome and so shall we!
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!