I visited a friend who had been discharged from the hospital. There was nothing else the doctors could do for him. He was dying of cancer that had slowly eaten his life away. A strict vegan and health enthusiast, he often wondered what he might have done wrong to deserve that painful experience.
Prior to this visit we used to talk about issues concerning salvation and health. He had run track in high school, and I had been running for a few years. Trying to steer his mind off his pain, I brought up the topic of running. He replied, “Chongo, running is the last thing on my mind right now.”
I felt like Job’s friends when they went to visit him. The best time Job had with them was when they sat silently for a week. I didn’t know what sensible thing to say next. My friend rescued me by talking about his family. We then sang his favorite hymns, read from the Bible, and prayed for God’s miraculous healing.
He died six days later. I was away, and when I returned I visited his wife to offer personal condolences. We reminisced about his life, especially about his zeal for God and how he never met a stranger. At the grave site she stated as she wept, “How I wish you were present at your friend’s funeral.”
Death Is So Final!
I heard her pain of loss as I fought back tears. She was angry and disappointed that he could die so prematurely, and I wish I could share her pain. But Nathan Brown is right: “Pain is the most isolating human experience. No matter how much we watch, read about, laugh at, or sympathize with the pain of others, pain itself is always a unique and isolated experience. There is simply no way our hurt, our sorrow, or our fear can be shared.”*
Of all causes of human pain, death seems to be the worst. Wounds can heal. Relationships can be mended. Death appears so final. It reminds us that life on earth is short and uncertain. Sometimes we blame God for the death, even when we know He is not responsible for the pain and anguish we feel. We know that God understands our sorrows better than we do. He expresses His love through Jesus, “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
The major problem is that death engenders discouragement, the devil’s greatest weapon against humanity. Discouragement tends to rob us of the joy and hope in Christ in this life and of the assurance of eternal life to come. The greatest antidote to discouragement is Jesus. Therefore, when we become discouraged we should run to Jesus, fixing our eyes on Him because He is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). God loves us beyond measure, sending His Son to die for us (John 3:16).
Yes, God loves us and doesn’t want any harm to come to us. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). How I wish I could always remember this statement when I am discouraged!
Some Days Will Be Dark
“These things I have spoken to you,” Jesus said, “that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And in the words of Paul, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
But death is the ultimate challenge—even to a believer. Especially when diseases such as cancers are involved, notwithstanding your struggle to live right. However, it’s comforting to know that Jesus also suffered. Therefore, we can surrender our lives, our problems, to Him. He is the great burden bearer.
The good news is that death is not the final answer. The righteous dead will live again. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18). Yes, a time is coming when the dead will hear His voice and will come forth from their graves to life everlasting (John 5:28, 29).
We ought to share this good news with others until the day God calls us home. Jesus died so that we don’t have to die the second death.
If We’re Ever Tempted
If we ever begin to doubt God’s love, we need to visit Calvary. At Golgotha, feeling forsaken by God as the weight of sin enveloped Him, separating Him from His Father, Jesus stared death in the face. “My God, My God,” He cried, “why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).
Jesus in His agony could not even address God as “Father.” But God the Father was there, indeed. Unable to bear the sight of His Son naked and humiliated, He had enshrouded Golgotha in darkness. He “who knew no sin” had become “sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).
Heaven stood in silence as it witnessed the forsaken Commander struggle to save a rebellious planet. "He treaded the winepress alone" (Isa. 63:3).
Great Day Coming
The greatest anticipated moment in human history is about to happen. Jesus will return. On that day death will lose its power. Loved ones will be reunited, never to be separated again. That resurrection morning can’t come soon enough! On that wonderful day our nature will be transformed. The righteous dead will rise incorruptible and immortal (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 4:15).
Evil will cease; this world as we know it will be restored to the original conditions God intended; every trace of sin and death will be erased; God will dwell with us and wipe away the tears from our eyes. Think of it: no more dying, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain (Rev. 21:4).
And through the ceaseless ages of eternity, humans will enjoy blissful fellowship with God and with one another in perfect harmony.
Therefore, let’s not be overly troubled when we suffer loss (John 14:3). Compared to eternity, we have only a few more years to contemplate the ravages of death.
The old die; also the young. The poor die; also the rich. Non-Christians die; but Christians also. The ignorant die; but also the educated. However, in every case, death is painful, whether anticipated or sudden. I yearn for that beautiful land where there is no cancer, no accidents, no parting, no sorrow, no death. I don’t embrace death, but every time I lose someone, I am reminded of that great day coming. And each death brings me closer to that reality.
D. Chongo Mundende is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Edmond, Oklahoma, U.S.A.
This article originally appeared in Adventist World in the March, 2010 issue.