This was a family that I had come to know through many visits. We prayed together at the end of each visit. During my time with them, we talked about their marriage, their families, their careers, their love for travel, and about the God of the Bible, whom she knew and loved.
It was the second time she had come to be under hospice care. This time it was different and everyone knew it. My visits were brief due to the lack of consciousness. Her husband was always by her side, but he really didn’t want to talk much. Sometimes I just sat with him.
A new day came and I wondered. I had arrived shortly after she had died. Her family was gathered around the bed and tears were flowing freely. As I entered the room, I remained silent. They knew who I was and there weren’t any words that needed to be spoken.
After about 3 minutes, her husband turned to me, with tears in his eyes and asked, “Is she in heaven?” I swallowed hard, fought my own tears and assured him that she most definitely was with her Lord and Savior.
As a Christian chaplain, one of the most difficult situations that I find myself in, is having to come up with an honest, yet, comforting answer, to a sincere question from a loved one. It happens all too often, especially as I deal with a death.
Sometimes the person is a known believer, as in the case above. That makes it a little easier. There is still the grief that must be gone through (for me as well). But knowing that that person was a true believer in Jesus Christ, trusting in Him alone for the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life, well, that makes it a little easier for everyone involved.
Just because we’re believers doesn’t me we don’t grieve, and grieve hard. Paul tells us that we will grieve; we should grieve. Someone whom we loved is no longer here. Yes, we know what the apostle Paul says about being absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:1-8). We are going to grieve; we need to grieve; but not as those who have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13-18).
The New Testament is filled with the good news of the gospel and the eternal outcome for those who have trusted in Christ (e.g. John 11:25-26).
In Romans 8:38-39, the believer, his/her family and friends are assured that nothing, and no one, can ever separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. Again, comforting words. The love of God has made certain that eternal life is for those who are saved by God’s grace, through their faith, in Jesus Christ alone.
But what of the, clearly, unsaved? What words do we have for the family and friends that will not betray our Lord, and yet somehow be comforting? Those are excellent questions, ones that will be addressed in a later article.
The time draweth nigh. As Dr. Mal Couch would say, “Perhaps today.”
May the Lord bless you as you share the gospel of Jesus, the Savior to a, literally, lost and dying world.
Gary T. Dromi, D.Min., Ph.D.