Someone is Dying
How do we face the prospect of someone dying? Pastor Ian helps us understand what God expects of us during such times.
I knew my father was dying… and yet I continued to act like he wasn’t. I often lied to myself about this. Out loud. I would walk into his room, open the blinds and declare, “Hey Dad, you’re looking so much better today!” He never responded. Because he couldn’t. Or perhaps he was just far beyond caring about my self-serving attempts to make myself feel better. I knew that my grief was a reflection of my love for him. But like many of us, I had not expected love to be so consumingly painful. And so I distracted myself with things that made me—at least momentarily—happier, just so that I could numb the ache of my father’s imminent departure.
Grief is an awkard topic for Christians partly because it is painful, and partly because we were once persuaded that, “if you just accept Jesus as your Saviour, you will find true happiness.” I fear though, that we have become entirely too successful at avoiding the godly, painful awareness that someone is dying.
You are probably just like me. You know your neighbours are dying… and yet continue to act as if they are not. Like me, you may give them an optimistic greeting or occasionally exchange platitudes regarding how fit the other one looks. And then we each go our way, numbing the pain with activity and ignoring the lingering stench of decay. We distract ourselves with laughter and avoid that which gives us even the smallest pinch of grief. And yet… God continually calls us to live with acute awareness that we walk in a fallen, broken and dying world.
So what does God expect of me when someone is dying?
1. He expects awareness
In 1 Samuel 30, David returns to his village to find it destroyed. At the knowledge that his family had been taken hostage by his enemy, verse 4 says, “David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep.” The intensity of David’s grief was not just an indication of deep affection. It was evidence of his intense awareness of the condition of those he loved.
2. He expects distress
In Luke 19, Jesus draws near to Jerusalem, and looking out over the city, he weeps. “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes (verse 41).” Jesus loved the people of Jerusalem, and was aware that they were blind to their salvation. So He wept over the condition of the city. And I suddenly realise that though many of us love Singapore, few of us have wept for her.
3. He expects us to imitate Christ
Paul was a man who forsook everything in order to be found in Christ and to be found like Christ. How much did he reflect the love of Christ? He writes of unbelieving Israel with jarring anguish: “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:2-3).” His love was intensely, willingly sacrificial, to the point at which he even seemed prepared to be cursed himself if it meant others being blessed!
4. He expects us to live with gospel purpose.
Sometimes when life gets hard and people we love die, we wistfully wish for the day of Christ’s return. In those moments we might even wonder, Why God? It has been 2,000 years. Why is it taking so long? Peter has a shocking answer for us. It is taking so long because people we do not love are dying. And God is patient… with us! “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).”
This year as Advent comes upon us, God has provided yet another moment to notice that, as we celebrate the coming of Light and Life into our world, there are people dying in darkness all around us. He gives us yet another chance to embrace appropriate distress over the condition of the Lost. He remains patiently waiting for us to live like people are dying and Christ is coming. Would we dare to turn our eyes from the sanctuary of momentary distractions? Would he bend our hearts in grief over the fact that we are living everyday among those who have yet to respond to the gospel?
Here are some specific actions we may want to consider this Advent Season:
- Consider attending the Compassion Ministry Talk this Sunday, 11:00 am in Room 310 A-B. This week we will hear about the challenging ministry to women like Hosea’s wife, Rahab, and the Samaritan woman.
- Consider loving the families who live around you by inviting their children to join our VBS this 28-30 November. For more information your could write the VBS team at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Consider who you might invite to our Advent and Christmas services.
- Consider providing comfort and fellowship by sharing a lunch with someone who will be alone this Christmas. You can sign up at http://tinyurl.com/GBCChristmas2019
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, … and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed (2 Peter 3:10).”