“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment …” (Hebrews 9:27.
“The Days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).
The universal certainty of death, coupled with the sheer number of people on earth, insures that it is a frequent occurrence. Sometimes it seems that it comes especially frequently and to greater numbers of those we know and love. On this campaign trip to Bangladesh I have learned of the deaths of hundreds (perhaps thousands) from Hurricane Katrina, that of my aged aunt, of a tiny days-old infant from my home congregation, of the continued toll from terrorism in Iraq, of numerous traffic accidents and several airplane crashes and of a young girl from one of the Bangladesh churches who died from snakebite. Obviously some of these I knew; some were relatives, some countrymen, some fellow Christians with the remainder joined by the common fellowship of mankind.
We are quick to talk about the “tragedy” of death, especially if it comes by violence, natural disaster or accident, or if it comes to the young. Certainly there is sadness associated with the departure of one whom we love, and with the loss of “potential” of life yet un-experienced. But to those who believe in the resurrection and eternal life, there is no tragedy involved in the death of one faithful to God.
Few verses of Scripture are more comforting than Psalm 116:15. God “sees” the deaths of his saints. They are precious to him. I cannot help but compare the concept of this verse with the picture of an aged parent looking forward to the home-coming of a child who has been absent for a long time. Several years ago my father spent almost all of three years abroad, returning for only a few brief visits. When he returned permanently, he immediately went to see his mother, then 91 years old. They spent a long, enjoyable day together, then retired for the evening. During the night she died. Her last day was one of the most enjoyable and pleasant she had spent for many years, because of the long anticipated visit with her oldest son, whom she had not seen for a long time.
Death is a home-coming for Christians. We anticipate going to heaven, and rightly so. But do we often stop to realize that our Father is also looking forward to our coming? God wants to see us, to have us in his immediate fellowship through all eternity. We are on our way home, and our family is waiting for us. Where is the “tragedy” in that?