But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Graduation ceremonies undo me now. At a graduation party recently, I watched pictures of a little baby grow to be a little girl, and then saw her step out onto the stage, a woman of God. I saw her—on a projector screen—suited in baby clothes, play in the sand, make friends, grow taller, and then, graduate.
My first daughter wasn’t made for that; she was made for heaven. And this is beautiful; my daughter has been given the gift of Christ. What better gift could any of us have? In a different sense, this also is beautiful to me: Children make memories with their parents here on earth, and grow and go to college and get married and live. They mature, and learn, and fulfill the purposes that God has for them here on this earth.
Certain Facebook statuses undo me now too. Someone leaves this earth more quickly than expected. Tributes come. Hope is proclaimed. There will be a tomorrow. We will all gather together again who love God, closer than ever. Reading a status like this, I sat up in my bed one night at sunset to weep at the thought of it all coming near—while having a heart expectant and longing, yet, content.
But I don’t bother to wipe away my tears; it’s not the day for that yet.
Faith and Grief Are Not at Odds
My Christian faith plus my Christian grief—they mix and have their places in me. But they are not at odds. We know that death is not God’s end-story; thankfully sin—from which death came—has been defeated at the cross. But we do grieve here and now. And we have faith. Those are not opposed to each other on this earth. Instead, my best understanding of them has grown from seeing how they go together.
Earlier this summer, I was fixated on the TV account of one more Olympic hopeful who has overcome the odds and, now, has a shot at Olympic victory for the second time. Later, I was fixated on yet another status of earthly loss coming through my news feed, feeling it with them. The place in me that feels utterly defenseless at the thought of someone making it to a milestone, when my daughter didn’t make it through birth, or at the news of a family member’s friend who unexpectedly died, like my sweet girl—this place yields its tears still, years later.
That place in me that gets hit over and over with these reminders—right in there—I hear the sweetest refrains of eternity, experience the fiercest assurances of future hope, and am welcomed without fail by the unswerving understanding that my God is forever and his purposes can never fail. And because I know him, I stand for a meaning beyond myself—for his glory.
The longing place in me and the acutely bolstering reminders of the next world—they abide together. Frankly, I don’t believe that they could possibly be separated on this earth. They are maintained together; and the maintenance is sustainable for me as a person who belongs to God. I experience this longing while simultaneously feeling the air of eternity within my soul; I am enabled to feel both, and still thrive with life in Christ.
Grief Is Different Than Despair
There is a difference between this and self-pity, or between this and despair. For in this, grief takes me beyond myself to Christ. It does not increase any pressure in me because it all pours over into him. And, of course, he can be the basin for every wet stripe down my cheek that reminds me I am not home yet. He is the basin for these tears—wet and waiting, but even more, purposeful and preparing.
I appreciate that he has made us for life here and that life here is supposed to point us to life ahead. The tributes come at death, and the victory celebrations ring at milestones. They both tell us that he is the Life and is coming, that he wants to take us home when the time is right. For even our sweetest moments are fleeting, carrying our thoughts ahead to when all the best will be lasting and eternal—not to mention more than we can presently comprehend. The Overcomer is coming, victorious. There is a better place where, graciously, we belong.
Jesus Sings His Victory through Our Grief
Christ is the lofty Overcomer because he has been far lower on his cross than my lowest, so that his life can ring even in the death of those we love; in my lowest—that is where I have heard his victory songs most resonant and clear.
Do you hear his victory songs too? Let your grieving tears fall into him and your lowest point be where he abides with you. For grief and faith—they go so well together on this earth. They both will be wiped away when we don’t need them anymore. Tears will be cleared and faith will be made sight.
All will be glorious in him at last; what we have trusted this day will not fail us.
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