Living With Loss Archives 2011

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  • Shall We Know One Another in Heaven? by Hoyt Houchen
  • A Parent's Grief by James R. Dunigan
  • A Father's Grief by James R. Dunigan
  • Blaming God by James R. Dunigan
  • Gone with the Wind by Cindy Granke
  • Poem by W. Oliver Cooper
  • When the Storm Passes (poem) by Mosie Lister
  • Not Thou But I (poem) by Philip Bourke Marston
  • If I Should Die Tonight (poem) by Arabella Eugenia Smith
  • He is Not Dead by James Whitcomb Riley
  • The Last Fight by Robert F. Turner

Shall We Know One Another In Heaven?

Hoyt Houchen

Man is confronted with many mysteries, thus causing him to Ponder on many questions. He is made to wonder about death, immortality, what is beyond and shall we know each other in heaven. The subject of future recognition in heaven that is discussed in this article pertains to saints. As we give attention to this question, we are aware that our soul's salvation does not depend upon the answer; nevertheless, it is thought provoking and motivates us to delve into the Scriptures to determine if they provide the answer. Some questions which concern us are not answered in the Scriptures, thus they remain mysteries and must be classified in the file of curiosity. We do not believe, however, that the question under consideration is in that category.

Every devoted Christian has probably given thought to this question. When one of our loved ones (a saint) departs from this life, we are sustained by the hope that we shall be united with him in heaven. Shall we recognize each other? We address ourselves to this question. While the Bible does give some teaching about future recognition, nevertheless, there are questions which remain unanswered, especially those involving details or specifics. The Bible teaches that heaven is real, but shall we as saints know each other in heaven?

A significant phrase is found in Genesis 25:8 where we are told, "And Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years, and was gathered to his people." "He was gathered to his people." This phrase, or a slight variation of it, is used with reference to Ishmael's death (Genesis 25:17), the death of Isaac (Genesis 35:29), the death of Jacob (Genesis 49:29,33) and to Moses and Aaron (Deut. 32:50). Moses was not buried in the sepulchers of his fathers, but in an unknown place "in the valley of Moab" (Deut. 34:6). So, the phrase "gathered unto his people" would not refer to the burial of the body, but to the reunion of the spirit with those who had died before.

On the occasion of David's child who had died, he said: "Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Samuel 12:23). David realized that someday he would go to be with the child.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "...we are your glorying, even as ye also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus" (2 Corinthians 1:14). Paul also wrote to these brethren: "knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you" (2 Corinthians 4:14). And, he wrote to the Thessalonians: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? Are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus at his coming?" These are times of future rejoicing and glorying, thus it seems reasonable that Paul in these verses is referring to the "day" when the Lord Jesus will come to judge the world. Paul and his readers will be in one another's presence at that time.

The passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:13,14 is one of hope and comfort for Christians whose loved ones had died. Paul admonished his readers that they "sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope" (v. 13). Their hope was not only that of the loved being at home with God, but it is also reasonable that there was the hope of someday seeing that beloved saint and being with him forever. This Scripture affords us the same hope today. The foregoing Scriptures are some which convey the idea that the faithful who die will be united with the other faithful who have already departed from this life. There will be a meeting together.

Will there be future recognition? There are two passages in particular which lend evidence to this.

1) The transfiguration (Matthew 17:18; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36). Christ was transfigured on the mountain and there appeared with him Moses and Elijah. Moses had been dead for nearly fifteen hundred years, and his body lay in an unknown grave. Elijah did not die, for he was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). The body of Moses turned to dust and Elijah had been changed. These men were clothed with different bodies from what they had here upon earth, but they appeared to the disciples and were talking with Jesus. They were both recognized.

2) The rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Although some classify this account as a parable, a parable represents something that actually occurs. The rich man recognized Lazarus and Abraham in the unseen world. He still possessed memory, for he was told to remember that in this world he had good things and Lazarus evil things. He also remembered that he had five brothers still living. He requested that they be warned, lest they too, should come to torment. A great gulf in Hades separated the righteous from the wicked, and although it was too late for the rich man to be changed, there was recognition.

The Scriptures teach that at the resurrection of the dead, it is our physical bodies that will be changed, not our spirits. This is made clear in 1Corinthians 15 (see vv. 35-38). This body will be changed from a mortal body to an immortal one. "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (v. 53). There can be no doubt that the mortal and the corruptible refer to the physical body. Certainly, the spirit is neither corruptible nor mortal. When we are raised from the dead, we shall have a body which pleases God to give us. It will be a changed body (vv. 51,52). "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body" (v. 44). This being true, we shall not be known in heaven by our natural (physical) bodies as we are known here upon the earth, but this is not to suppose that our spiritual bodies will be without form and features.

Jesus, Moses and Elijah were transfigured. Webster defines transfiguration" as "a change in form or appearance" (Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1252). They were transfigured, but they were recognized. The Lord will clothe us with bodies which he has prepared; they will be fashioned anew to be "conformed to the body of his glory" (Philippians 3:21). Our bodies will be transformed into the likeness of his body in the glorified state. John wrote, "Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is" (1John 3:2). If we shall recognize God in his manifested form, then, does it not stand to reason that we shall recognize one another in whatever likeness he shall prepare for us?

There will be recognition in heaven. How the resurrection and transformation will take place, our finite minds cannot comprehend it, much less can we explain it. By the same faith that we accept all the miracles in the Bible, let us anticipate this great miracle which is yet to occur, and believe it with all our hearts.

The very thought of knowing one another in "the land that is fairer than day" is a great hope for Christians and should motivate us to endeavor even more to please God, and be assured that someday we can live forever in that most wonderful and indescribable place known as heaven.

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning

those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who 

have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,

even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who

are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no

means precede those who are asleep. 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 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

In October of last year I received the following writings from brother James Dunigan. They were written after his son, Jon, was killed in action in Afghanistan. Be ready to hear the raw pain of a parent's grief laid out in full view. As you move into the Father's Grief, prepare yourself to receive a jolt of reality. It's not one man's opinion, it is a glimpse into the world of grieving fathers, a world no one can possibly understand except for the fathers who abide in this place. Even in this group of men, there will be varying thoughts and emotions due to all of them being individuals, and that is also one of the lessons brother Dunigan is trying to teach: allow fathers to grieve and to grieve in his own way. Let us all become aware of the needs of grieving parents and gain some understanding from one of brother Dunigan's most courageous undertakings he's ever done -- being honest and openly sharing his pain in the loss of his beloved child.   --Pat Gates

A Parent's Grief
James R. Dunigan

I have learned parental grief is boundless. It touches every aspect of my being...When a child dies; the parents grieve for the rest of their lives. Their grief becomes part of them...As time has passed I have come to appreciate that my grief is a link to my child who is gone. My grief keeps me connected to Jon.

I have come to understand something that perhaps has shattered some of my illusions on death and grief. Even though Jon is gone we will always be his parents. Some relationships he has had in the past have changed and some of the people he has been involved with in his life can and most likely will move on to other relationships and that is natural and good. But we will always be his parents. There will always be an empty place in our hearts for the loss of our youngest son. We will always be his loving Mom and Dad. What hurts me more than anything I can think of right now is that I can no longer share my love openly and physically with my child anymore. My son will not live his life here with us anymore and I cannot see him in the flesh anymore. The hope of him returning home is gone and the intense feeling of missing him is never satisfied without that hope. The feeling that all through his life I protected him and looked out for him was shattered when he died without me there by his side. I may not have been able to stop his death but I also could not be there to walk through the valley of death with him. It hurts me everyday to know this. Did he cry out for us? Did he cry out for his loving wife? We will never know.

I driven to and must find ways to hold on to the memories I have of him. My memories are indeed precious gifts of the heart I need these memories and whispers to find inner peace and closeness to him. Every prayer I offer to God feels me with a peace and a hope that God is indeed caring for my son in ways I never could. God has taken away his pains and worry of this life and he waits as I do the coming of heaven and eternal life. Jon gave me many wonderful gifts in our life together. His love and respect. His love of life, his laughter was all precious gifts. He gave me the gift of a daughter in law and the hope of future grandchildren. But the MOST precious gift he gave me is the comfort of knowing he was a Christian. He knew and obeyed the gospel. I have the gift of knowing he went to the hands of a loving God and no worry on earth here will change his condition one bit. I cannot worry him in or out of heaven. But my confidence lies in he is in paradise as I write this.

I know I am not the only parent who has ever grieved the death of a child. My grandparents did, I have other family members who did as well. I have friends and fellow church members who have as well, some of them grieving as I am, as we speak, because they lost children recently as well. I have found other parents who have lost their child in the same manner we have, killed in action. Parents mourning have been an occurrence down through the ages of time. I have read literature that the author has reflected upon this form of grief and I see me in them. How can I describe the powerful and conflicting emotions that are involved? The pain of grief, the spiral of mourning, the roller coaster of emotions. Guilt yes even guilt has risen its ugly head as I continue on in my life while his was cut tragically short. How do I explain to you the heart break that lies at the very depths of my heart? The contradictions of grief and the pain and sorrow and loss that I feel as a parent?

I have lost loved ones. My dad was my best friend in this world bar none. My dad, advisor and fishing buddy. He taught me God's word. His strong hands that chastised me when I erred were the same hands that held me lovingly when I was sick or hurt. I could ask for no better man to be my dad and no better Christian to guide me into my love of God. I mourn him every day. But this grief I feel for the loss of a son is the most intense grief I have ever felt. I have been told by other parents they feel the same. When Jon died a part of us died. The future plans he had, that we had, all died that day. As a dad I feel a dad's grief. His mom feels a part of her has died. The child she carried in her for 9 months, the child she shared heartbeats with, she nourished from her own body is gone. I believe no one feels the loss of a child more than the mother. Not the grandparents, not the aunts and uncles, not the friends, no one but the mother. The widow has her grief and her loss and they have all that entails and it is a horrible grief to endure. I wish none of them had to suffer that, but the mother has her unique grief as well. A vital core part of her has been ripped away.

I feel like we have suffered the ultimate deprivation. All the plans and futures we had imagined for our child is destroyed. This loss of a child and the grief that follows is not only painful but it is disorienting. Simply put, our children are not supposed to die before we do, that is not the natural order of things. I have been faced with a tremendous paradox... this paradox has caused me stress and pain... I must deal with the grief of losing my child and continue with living my life as fully as possible! I am not supposed to do that without my child watching me grow old and burying me! I want to be free of this overwhelming pain but yet it is a constant reminder of my child who died.

This grief I feel is not simple. It is not a pain that will heal overnight. It will not scab over and eventually disappear. It is complex, it is an incredibly traumatic event and has left me with overwhelming emotional needs. I am usually the one who offers encouragement, support and a shoulder to cry on to others now I suddenly find myself being the one who needs these things. What people don't seem to realize about this grief, especially those who have never gone through it, is that I must acknowledge it and feel it in its intensity. Why? Because that is the only way I can overcome it and not succumb to it! It is fine and dandy for me to be sad! I hope others will realize this. Dealing with this parental grief involves deep pain and it is an ongoing process as I attempt to walk down this lonely road of grief. Please understand it is a long road! It is not a quick walk around the block I am taking. Problem is, contrary to what you might believe, I do not know where the end of the road is! I believe if you cannot take this walk with me the least you can do is step out of my path and let me walk alone, I have enough roadblocks in front of me as it is.

Let me help you here. This process we are going through, we parents who have lost a child, has no time limit. A few weeks? A few months? A few years? Let me answer for you a question before you ask it. How long is the process? It is a lifetime, it is the rest of my lifetime. Our lives are forever changed! Know what we are dealing with? Here is that answer as well. We are trying to find and hold on to some meaning from the loss of our child and our lives without that child. It is easy for you to tell us to remember them, to remember they are heroes and the like. Trust us, WE KNOW. We know that and more. I got a bucket full of his medals to remind me of that. I have my memories to remind me of that but I am the one who lays my head down on the pillow at night and has to think through all this. I am the one who has to deal with this loss, I am the one taking this long sad painful journey. It is frightening. It is lonely and it really never ends. Time is only a concept in this journey. Not to sound snide, but we need your support, not your advice on what we should be remembering. Trust me on this... the hope and desire for eventually healing is there - we pray for it everyday and it is intense and persistent in us. Let us grieve! We will in our time, not yours.

Our child was a gift to us and our gift was taken away. We were forced to give that child up! No one asked us politely to surrender this precious gift we were given. Many of us planned to have our child, they came into this world because we wanted them and wanted to bring a life into existence. But here is the deal, our child's death was a gift to you! Those of us who lost a child killed in action shared our gift with you. We seek to find ways to continue to love, honor and value the lives of our children. We want to make the presence of our child known and felt in the lives of family and friends. We want to share that child with you some more. Guess what? Bereaved parents often try to live their lives more fully and generously because of this painful experience. Sharing our child is a way we heal and overcome the emotional turmoil in our lives. When we are ready to share please let us.

To those outside or our family, the make up of our family may seem to change when a child dies. A sibling may become an only child; a younger child may become the oldest or the only child; the middle child may no longer have that title; or the parents may never be able to, or perhaps may choose not to, have another child. Nonetheless, the birth order of the child who died is fixed permanently in the minds and hearts of the parents. Nothing can change the fact that this child is considered a part of the family forever, and the void in the family assemblage created by the child's death also remains forever. Think about that as you ponder why we always keep the number of our children the same when you ask. Ponder that as we have family get togethers and an empty chair stares us in the face! Think about that every time their birthday rolls around and we realize that our child will not be getting a card or present this year! Remember that when the day of the death of our child rolls around and the world keeps on keeping on while we sit and grieve.

If you take the time to read my words, remember this: Death is an experience that is common to all mankind, an experience that touches all members of humanity, the great and the small know what death is. Death transcends all cultures and beliefs; there is both commonality and individuality in the grief experience. When a loved one dies, each person reacts differently. A child's death, however, is such a wrenching event that all affected by it express sadness and dismay and are painfully shaken. Such a devastating loss exacts an emotional as well as a physical toll on the parents and family. Here is some of what we feel. Our grief that may include an overwhelming sense of its magnitude, a sense that the pain will last forever, a sense that the grief is etched into one's very being, it reaches into the depths of our souls and shakes us like a rag doll. It is ok for these parents to express their anger outwardly so that it will not turn inward and possibly become a destructive force in the future. However remember, individual reactions often vary and that the same person may even experience contradictory reactions. Yes, one day we are up , the next day we are down - to be honest this may happen hourly or by the minute!

There are also many unique ways that we parents express our grief. These individual responses are influenced by many factors including the person's life experiences, coping skills, personality, age, gender, family and cultural background, support and/or belief systems, and even the death or the type of death that occurred. So what works for one might not work for the other. We will experience ups and downs and a literal roller coaster of emotions. We have a personal history that includes a past with the child and a present and future without the child. For most of us important to verbalize the pain, to talk about what happened, to ask questions, and puzzle aloud, sometimes over and over. And at other times we are truly at a loss for words!

We are survivors and each survivor travels this lonely and painful road in a way each one singly maps out. In traveling this road, parents often respond differently, learn to live with their grief separately, and express their sadness uniquely. Grieving parents can and often do feel alone, disconnected, and alienated even with a spouse sitting next to them grieving as well. We need to know that there are many ways to grieve; there is no timetable for grief's duration; there are no rules, boundaries, or protocols for grieving.

If you want to comfort us you need to recognize and understand the complexities of the parents' emotions and should avoid relying on preconceived ideas about the way a couple is supposed to grieve if their child dies. Reactions of grieving parents may seem overly intense, self-absorbing, contradictory, or even puzzling. For bereaved parents, the death of a child is such an overwhelming event that their responses may often be baffling not only to others but to themselves as well. So let us grieve.

Thanks you James R. Dunigan Gold Star Dad


A Father's Grief

James R. Dunigan

I guess I write as I do for somewhat selfish reasons. It is how I vent and get my feelings and thoughts out. Many times what I write will never be seen. When it comes to this idea of grief I keep much to myself because I don't want to come across as "HEY LOOK AT ME." I don't want to distract from the grief others are feeling - what ever they happen to be grieving over.

The last 6 months have been hard on me to be sure. I lost a child, I feel lonely for my other son and my family that are half a nation away from me. I have loving brethren here and some I feel as close to as a brother but I still yearn for home at times. I have always accepted that the things that happen to me help to form the man I will become. I am 51 years old and I am still an unfinished project. It seems though life has decided to teach me some pretty hard lessons.

I read of Abraham and God asking him to sacrifice his only son. Wow, what a request. I know the feeling though. I saw my son go to war at the request of his nation. No it is not the same, but it does give me a keener insight to what Abraham must have been feeling. I do not know how far it was from where Abraham was to the top of the mountain he was asked to sacrifice Isaac on, but I can tell you this, I bet every step of that journey felt like a thousand miles. I know as I walked toward the casket of my lifeless son, alone, it seems like my feet weighed a ton each and the effort was so hard on me I was sweating buckets by the time I reached his casket.

King David mourned the illness and eventual death of his just born son. He mourned the death of his son, Absalom, so much that he was warned it would cause a rebellion among his people because he was not celebrating the victory over this son who rebelled and tried to wrest the kingdom from his father. Fathers can mourn. Christ wept at the death of Lazarus, Peter wept bitterly over his denial of Christ, the apostle Paul despaired even of life over the action of Christians and friends. So, men can grieve.

As I said, I don't want to sound selfish or trite or distract from other's grief. My wife and I have weathered many storms in our lives. We have argued over the time and we have felt betrayal by family and felt that some took our son's death as an opportunity to show them as foolish, childish, selfish and insincere. Some took credit for things they should not have, while others made "stars" of themselves in his name. Others showed selfishness as they wanted everyone to look at them and show them all the deference even to the point people failed to support my wife in her grief. We had family members petting and supporting people on their supposed relationship with our son while failing to say a single word to the woman who bore him into this world or the woman who married him and pledged her life to him. But so be it, the storm was weathered and we have a less naive view of things and a broader sense of how to support others in this crisis. It is kind of funny I say all that to some to this real gist of this writing.

I can tell you this without a doubt and no reservations, with all the things my wife and I have overcome in our marriage the death of a child is the most traumatic and devastating thing a couple can face. No one really plans on it. No one really thinks one day I will bury my child. I looked at pictures of him the other day at his 12th birthday and it hit me like an oncoming train, I was literally looking at my son just shy of half his life being over. Talk about a smack to the gut...

I have spent many hours talking to people, counseling people, sitting with people as they faced traumatic events in their lives. I have sat with dying fathers and mothers. I have sat with families and loved ones as they dealt with the grief of losing a loved one.  While I cried and had compassion and helped them all I could, I was able to "box" those emotions and do what was needed to assist the family. But now I was not outside the box, so to speak, I was in it! How do you pack that box away? The one with the memories and love for your now gone child? I have also seen some things that have really struck home with me. I think back to the people I have helped with loss and found myself asking, did I truly help everyone. I know if I allow anyone to read this there will be preachers, health care workers and others viewing my words. I hope that what I am about to write will have some wisdom in it and if not, well, at least I got the issue off my chest and I can at least state what I believe I have learned.

When your child dies the mother and father grieve very deeply. I would say the closest thing I can attribute to is a "spiritual experience" because it rocks you to your soul. You have to make an instant decision! Do I lean on God, do I remain faithful and dependant on Him or do I become angry and shake my fist at Him and yell WHY? WHY MY SON, GOD? Let me tell you as a Christian one of the most spiritual battles I had to fight was thinking "Of the thousands of soldiers... why mine?" That is selfish, I know, but I am being bluntly honest here. I had to learn to shovel up all the whys and what for's and bury them in the darkest corner of my mind. Because to dwell on the "what if's" would drive you nuts. What if he had been in his bed? What if he had been 5 feet to the side? What if.... trust me I can write you 100 pages of "what ifs." Anyway back to my writing.

 I have learned very quickly that the widow, parents, family and friends will grieve. We have a common grief of losing a loved one but there are many ways we grieve differently. We had different outlooks and plans with that loved one. The wife had future plans of children and life together as they grew old. His mother had her plans, I had mine. We all had a different relationship with Jon and we have to deal with that loss as well. I had to learn this very very very quickly - here it is... hope you are listening ... each of us have to give each other the permission to grieve as he or she needs! Don't take that away from us! You cannot tell us when to stop or how to stop or how to handle this. Please, I have said so many times we need your support much more than we need your advice. Every person who has lost a child recently has all agreed on this one point! Allow us the time we need to grieve and if you cannot do that, then simply put, leave us alone. But the GREATEST gift we can give each other in this process is to give each other, husband and wife, mother and father, parents and widow/widower, all of us involved we need to give each other permission to grieve. If you have grieved and are ready to move on I am proud for you and happy you can, but allow me the same opportunity. Taking that away from me will cause me pain and bitterness toward you.

Parental grief. That is the one I have become very acquainted with. I can see it is actually influenced by the nature of the bond between child and parent. Distant parents who never really developed a deep bond with the child seem to handle their grief distantly and almost impersonally. While those who are close to the child are more openly effected. So-called experts have given a name to this form of grieving for mothers and fathers, "Incongruent grieving." A fancy term for "men and women grieve differently and at different times." There is a difference in timing and intensity of their parental bond for mothers and fathers and that carries over into their grieving as well. Women tend to be emotional immediately while dad is going about doing his business,  as a good father should - do the business part of this now and grieve later. See if you agree with me on this.

For the mother, the bond with the child is usually more immediate and demonstrable. I mean, she carried the child for 9 months, shared her body with that infant, and now that the child has come into the world there is an intense immediate bond right there at the beginning of life. It is emotionally and physically a very intimate relationship. The mother's bond started 9 months prior actually, it is tightly forged at conception! It continues through the pregnancy, the birth and nursing, if the mother nurses. In many cases it continues as mothers become the most active care givers of the child with the father pitching in to help from time to time. This maternal bond involves the here and now otherwise known as the present, and involves the baby's immediate needs.

The father's fraternal bond is also at play here. The Dad's bond with the child more often centers and concerns itself with the future, the dreams and expectations of the child. In this present age though, fathers have learned to take a more active role earlier in the lives of their child. They are in the delivery room when the child comes into the world. Fathers today tend to take a more active role in the early development of the child. Some are direct caregivers of the new baby and they develop a very early and close bond with their children. Yeah fathers! However, here is the deal, and I will probably lose some of you right now, in many cases of the death of a child something happens and I have not seen every reaction of every family and father involving the death of a child but here is something I believe I have seen. In many instances the father's emotional investment in parenting and the child's life tend to occur later and less intensely than the mother's. This is why it seems many fathers and mothers grieve so differently. People tend to believe and think the father does not grieve as intensely as the mother. Many things are written about the grief of the mother and the widow. Many songs and poems are dedicated to that - but very little is written of and said of a father's grief. I know this sounds selfish to the extreme, but it is true. I am not downplaying anyone else's grief only reminding that there is another who grieves as well.

As I reflect on the past 6 months since the fateful night Jon was killed, I reflect on others who have suffered the loss of a son. Those who lost children to car wrecks, drug overdoses, accidents and every other source of death I see a pattern developed of the fathers sitting in the background allowing everyone else to grieve, allowing all the comfort to be poured into their wives and family and taking this death on alone.

Allow me some leeway here as I write this. When is it my turn to cry? I mean when am I allowed to lay prostrate on the ground and weep for my son? When can I? When will I be allowed to do that without being told in essence, "suck it up?" Be strong for your family. Don't let your children see you cry. Trust me I have seen widows told that! I have seen mothers told that! I have seen it ten-fold told that to fathers! I look around me and feel that culture, society and, perhaps even my upbringing, have all been geared toward telling me not to let loose and cry. I mean to really cry will bring a reaction of embarrassment and shame for me by those witnessing my grief. I am a man. I am strong, I must support my wife because I am a MAN! I am the cornerstone of my family because the world says so. My family says so and until I can learn differently I say so! That is what we are taught.

Once, when I finally had enough of a family member's selfish and childish behavior, I hung up on her. I was told I was to apologize, this is the same family member who showed herself to be nothing more than a "selfish look at me person." Yes, in the midst of my grief when I got enough of being yelled at over things I could not control, after keeping them away form the widow with their pettiness and uncalled for anger,  I simply hung up the phone and yet I was the horrible selfish unkind person.  One night I had enough and I went off alone to cry, to have my time. When someone called to ask me a question and I tried to answer, I was told, "I can't understand you when you are crying like a baby; I'll talk to you when you get control of yourself." Needless to say I have not spoken a word to them since. But the attitude that I could not cry, I was not allowed to cry, was prevalent. When discovered I would preach my own son's funeral it was commented, "He'll never make it, he is too emotional," as if that was a bad thing. By the way, I did peach his funeral, just as I did my Dads and several of my aunts and uncles. Sadly, not a one of them truly knows my past and what I have come through to make me who I am today but that's another writing all together.

I look around and see that the people around us truly think along cultural lines when it comes to grief. No matter how close the father and child may be the cultural expectations about men, the grief process is powerful and it persists even in a more "enlightened" society. In a society of touchy feely relationships the view of society is that parental loss is not the same for the father as it is for the mother. Look at the material available and you will see it is geared toward the mother! (In dealing with parental grief.) It seems men are not noted or acknowledged as experiencing grief. We are taught as men, it is not necessary to grieve and we are discouraged from showing our grief openly. I mean, if you do, you are certainly a sissy and bleeding heart liberal. Trust me I felt that way. My tears meant nothing to anyone but me. I felt like a second class mourner. I think fathers have become the forgotten grievers. When we do grieve it is behind closed doors away from prying eyes and when one of us finally speaks up we come across as wimps and selfish. It is almost comical to think - because I grieved openly for my son I was not the man I should be. The same man who fought for his country as well. The man who took lives with his actions as a police officer and military actions, the man who went into a burning building 5 times to pull out his fellow soldiers is a wimp and borderline coward for allowing his grief to be shown. I am the man who keeps all this to himself because it is just the way we are, but now I am wimp and weak for weeping openly.  I am no longer MAN HEAR ME ROAR, I am man hear me whimper and cry. Keep your grief to yourself man... that's how it felt.

We Dads are EXPECTED to be strong for our wives; we are the "rock" of the family. We are expected to be the ones who attend to the practical... get on with the business of the business of burying our child. We are not to deal with the emotional aspects of their death; we should never let our emotions show or let tears run down our faces. We will not, we cannot fall apart. I have been asked many more times how my wife is doing but seldom asked how I am doing. That's ok... I can handle it, but it does show why fathers tend to think of themselves as second class grievers.

These expectations, these ideas surrounding the man thing... well they deprive men, the fathers, of their rightful and urgent need to grieve. I mentioned men from the Bible earlier; even Jesus grieved! I can tell you this - this need will come and it will be expressed eventually. If not allowed to be expressed in its time, when it finally does come, it will most often be the destructive forms. Many men take their own lives after the death of a child. Let me give you a bit of insight to something here - it is not uncommon, and this is from my own experience and talking to others, for grieving dads to feel overwhelmed, ignored, unwanted, lonely, isolated and outright abandoned as we try our best to remain the care givers of our loved ones and remain the head of the family. We return to our jobs and life while our hearts are still breaking! I still have obligations and responsibilities in my life and I have to fulfill those while still trying to deal with my son being gone. You can call it passing away, called home, called to duty in heaven, mustered out to heaven, sleeping with the angels, and a host of others sweet phrases, but the bottom line for us, our son is dead. I am dealing with, the loss of my friend, my confidant, my right hand man, the one who got me, my hunting partner, my fishing buddy, the man I always knew had my back, the one who thought like me, the one who cherished my advice, the man who I was proud of, my brother in Christ, the young man I baptized, the boy I played with for hours, built models with, sang songs with, dressed up for Halloween, watched unwrap present with glee in his eyes, the man I saw marry a wonderful young woman, the boy I loved as a child that I loved even more as a man, yes people, that man is dead. I will never again hear his voice call me. I will never again hug his neck. I will never again tell him to his face "I love you."  There ya go. Every cross word I said to him, every spanking I gave him, every disappointment I was stupid enough to tell him about in anger, every mistake I made as a Dad rushed back to me like an avalanche rushing down the steepest mountain. So bear with me as I grieve. By the way, I know we will meet one day in heaven... but in the here and now I miss him! Psssst... it is ok if I do.

Here is my fear. Here is why I write. I am not eloquent. It is hard for me to speak these words. I take pen to paper and I let it go. I never know what the end of my writing will be. I only know I will get there eventually and re-read what I wrote and feel better perhaps. I am not being snide but I am being honest - I share these words not for your advice on how to handle my grief. Not to be told "remember the memories" or be told depend on God. I dont write them to be told my son is in heaven looking down on me or he is now my guardian angel, to be honest I dont believe that for a second. He is in paradise without pain and tears. I write them, knowing I do not write them for him to see, I write them for me to see. Simply put, he is in a better place and the cares and worries of this world do not reach him there and I am thankful for that. I know these things, I promise. I write them so others will know they are not alone in this! Ok back to the thing I wanted to tell you.

I am a bereaved Dad. I think you got that. These emotions I feel? This pain and anguish? They are very very difficult to contain. I mean after all I am human. I have ridden a roller coaster of emotions. Anger, despair, sadness, embarrassment, oh you name it, I rode it. But let me tell you this... another reason why I write? Because YOU think you need to tell me how to grieve. You think you need to tell me your life story and compare the death of your cousins cousin and his loss to mine. I dont discredit that loss or your lifer story but hey this is my personal loss. You think you HAVE to tell me how to grieve, what to say and how to cure myself. To be honest again - unless you have dealt with the loss of a child - you really dont know nor can you imagine so it might be best if you just listened and learned. Yes I have lost a parent and loved ones and they are not the same. When I write this down you dont interrupt me and my thought process. You think you HAVE to preach the Bible to me. You think you need to do many things when really all you have to do is say I support you; let it go, I will listen. LET ME GRIEVE! I am not being mean and snide, I am just telling you how it is. I know all these things, and to have you constantly reminding me of them only serves to make me hide it from you and not share myself and my grief with anyone. God is sharing it with me. He is helping me, I go to Him in prayer, I ran to Him - not away from Him, I never lost an ounce of faith in Him, in fact, I have more faith and dependency on Him, so please understand I know that, SO LET ME VENT WIHTOUT YOU HAVING TO FEEL YOU NEED TO REMIND ME OF THE KNOWN FACTS. If I am not allowed to release these feelings then a volcano will erupt eventually. All too often dads bury their grief in the same casket they bury their children in and others come along and nail that coffin shut. Are you the hammer holder? Are you passing out the nails?  ANYWAY you ask what you can do to help? Here is an idea - simply sit next to the grieving father quietly and let him bare his soul with no prejudice and do it by supporting him.

All of you, spouses, other family members, professionals, coworkers, friends and anyone who will listen, let us verbalize our grief. Allow us to break free from stereotypes and social expectations. Take a another view of grief and understand we dads are hurting too. We must be allowed to share our grief. You know why? Because right now it is all I may have to share with you from my child's short life! We have to be allowed to move on as well. When we cannot and are not allowed to grieve we bottle it up and it stays with us for years! We react to the death of our child not as we need to, but how others believe we should by acting as men instead of how we need to react. We do not confront and resolve our grief properly because you wont let us. Anyway, this is most likely the last of my writings. I shared one yesterday and perhaps I will share this as well. Know I love you and do not want to hurt anyone but if you read this it might give you insight to what dads feel as they grieve.


Blaming God
James R. Dunigan

Some time back I was reading the comments made from people about the death of two teenagers who died suddenly in plane crash. I am sad to hear of the loss of these two precious young people. I have no idea about their spiritual condition and pray they were prepared for death. However I saw one man write "I don't understand why it was God's will for these two girls to die." Sometimes people will lament "Why did God take this person home?" Or they might say "God needed this or that person's ability in heaven." I have often heard people make comments such as these. In a nutshell that say it was God's will this person died or was suffering. It is surprising that people think this is a true statement. To me it says that God is sitting on His throne in heaven pointing His finger at some poor person here on earth and bringing down death and destruction on that person. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The other aspects of these types of statements that concern me are, it lays blame on God. It makes sense that if you believe that it is God's will for this or that person to die and suffer then it goes hand in hand it is God's fault they died or suffered. Does God "call people home" as some say? Does God sit in heaven and mark a date and time on the calendar and makes sure you don't live one moment past that predetermined time?

On March 09, 2010 an event would happen to my wife and I that would shake us to our very core. Our youngest son, Jon, was killed in action. His life snuffed out by a suicide bomber. Many bits of information has come in and the how and whys of this occurrence but the simple statement I made about it is the truth in its essence. Many people seek to comfort us with "he was called to muster in heaven"; "God wanted you to have an awesome guardian angel", while I know they are trying to comfort me our beliefs on this are far different. Once again God did not call Jon "home?" To make these statements would be to say God decided Jon was to die right then and there and to die in a horrible, painful manner. God would have intentionally put his family through the pain, horror and agony of this foul murder for these statements to be true. Why would God take Jon away from earth, away from the pain and worry of this world and then turn right around and make him come back and watch us struggle and suffer as our guardian angel? But to answer that I would be going into a whole different direction for this writing. But as we dealt wiht the pain and anguish of his death we sought to gain a deeper understanding of life and faithfulness. These types of events will drive one to God or away from Him depending on the answers they accept as true.

I know at one time or another, most of us have experienced many of the vast array of emotions that flood over us when we experience the death of a loved one - there's disbelief and denial; there are disappointments and regrets, there's sadness and depression; but often there's also anger. We are downright mad! But why anger? Because deep down inside we have this awareness that death is wrong, it's evil, it was never intended to be; we have become the victim of the worst kind of robbery, someone we so dearly loved has been stolen from us. For many people, this anger with death gets focused on God. Unfortunately, many people hold God responsible; He's the one who sends the death angel to snuff out the life of that person; frequently this finds expression in the words, "God took my father (mother, brother, etc.). But think about it - if God is responsible for death, doesn't that make Him a murderer? But we know that God said "thou shall not kill (murder)." Wouldn't it be hypocritical if God Himself was a murderer? What kind of a God would He be if He was guilty of the very thing He condemns us for?

There's some confusion about the phrase, "God's will." Many people seem to think that God is synonymous with "fate"- everything is already determined, "whatever will be will be" - there's nothing we can do to change it. Maybe it's normal to be angry with death, but it's wrong to be angry with God. Why? Because death is not according to God's will - with one, single, major exception - death is due to man's will. Going to 2 Peter 3:9, please notice the "but" - it says the Lord is "not willing that any should perish but . . ." "But" what? "That all should come to repentance." God's will is that all should come to repentance, and this implies that we have a choice. Does everyone make this choice? No, some people choose otherwise, Adam and Eve did! God does not want death for us, He wants life. The important question is, "What do you want?" for it's not about what God wants, or what God wills, it's about what you and I want.

In Matthew chapter 6: 26-33 Jesus discusses God's providential care of all of us, the animals, plants and people. Jesus never said God takes direct action in these events.  When Jesus was talking about the providential care of God, He taught that God demonstrates His love for His creatures in ways that are not necessarily miraculous or supernatural. To be "called home" or death coming through "God's Will" would be God miraculously "taking you out." Kind of a heavenly hit man.

What mankind needs to do is stop blaming everything on God! The sooner people realize that tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, wild fires, earthquakes, mud slides, avalanches and other natural disasters are not God's wrath, then the sooner people will be able to learn how to better prepare themselves for heaven.  Death is one of the occurrences of life, to be honest it is no surprise (Heb. 9:26-27.) No one knows how they will die. We do not know if our death will be a natural one of old age or comes abruptly at a young age. It is foolish to think that God or his angels are watching over us at times of disaster and death with the intentions of causing pain and suffering. Is God to blame? This is often the question that comes to mind when we confront real suffering in our own life or in the lives of those we love.  Death and suffering was never God's plan for mankind. When He created man in the beginning He placed him in the Garden of Eden where there was no death, illness or suffering, that my friend is God's plan for us.  Then Satan came along and tempted man, man failed and death and suffering came into the world. (Gen. 2-3.) Man failed God, God did not fail man. Now man strives to return to that perfect place God has for us named heaven.  Christ came to this earth and died so we may once again obtain this perfect place of no death, illness and suffering (Rev. 21:4) He died so we might be reconciled with God (Eph. 2:15-17) and once again enjoy that perfect relationship with God that man once had in the Garden of Eden. Christ came and died so He could abolish death! (2 Tim. 1:9-11.) Because of Christ we can indeed ask  O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? (1 Cor. 15: 54-57.)

People think since God created everything, He is responsible for everything including bad things that happen to me and others. God did create everything that is in existence (Gen. 1) but someone else modified some of those things for evil purposes - Satan was that someone. Take note that everything that God created was good. (Gen. 1:1-25.)  Even man was created good and sinless, but man sinned and ruined that which God created. God is responsible for all good that is in the world (James 1:17.) But he is not responsible for evil. Man is responsible for his own behavior; (Rom. 2:6-11.)   So why do people blame God or say things like it was His will for this person to die or suffer? It is because God is an easy target. Seems that when we find ourselves in difficulties we always want to blame the one who's in charge. God is in charge of everything, so ultimately, we reason, He's to blame. Moreover, God won't argue with us, at least, not immediately. Those who think in this manner forget God's longsuffering toward us 2 Peter 3:9-12. We are also taught God wants no man to perish! 1 Tim. 2:3-5 " For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." (Cf. Acts 17:30-31.)  Without question, when Peter says God is not willing that any should perish, it means that God does not want anyone to die. It's as simple as that. It follows then that because we have been created in the image of God - if God doesn't want us to die, and we are like Him, then no wonder we get angry in the face of death. Death is not according to God's will, but according to our choice.

It is also clear that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, it is also clear that He most surely does not will or decree their death. (Eze.33:10-12.)  This expression of Gods will is revealed in the many verses of Scripture which indicate what God does and does not take pleasure in. It is time we stopped blaming God and stop being ignorant of Him and His will.

If we are not careful, Christians can easily become preoccupied or even obsessed with finding the will of God for our lives. We become obsessed with wanting to assign everything that happens to us as God's Will. It amazes me how many people are quick to assign death and suffering and all bad things to God's Will but give Him little to no credit for the blessings and good in our lives (Eph. 1:2-4.). If the will we are seeking is His secret or hidden will - we are on a foolish quest. God has not chosen to reveal that aspect of His will for us. What we should seek to know is the revealed will of God. The true mark of spirituality is when people desire to know and live according to the will of God as revealed in the Scripture, and that can be summarized as be holy for I am Holy (I Peter 1:15-16.) ). Our responsibility is to obey the revealed will of God and not to speculate on what His hidden will for us might be. While we should seek to be led by the Holy Spirit, we must never forget that the Holy Spirit is primarily leading us to righteousness and to being conformed into the image of Christ so that our lives will glorify God. God calls us to live our lives by every word that proceeds from His mouth.

Earlier we emphasized the point that death is not according to God's will - with one, single, major exception. What is that exception? Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His death on a cruel cross, Jesus prayed the memorable lines, "not my will but Yours be done." (Lk. 22:41-43.) It was God's will that His own Son die. "God is not willing that any should perish," except for Jesus - that was the one death that was according to God's will. He planned that death so that no one else would need to die and so that we could obtain salvation (Heb. 5:7-9.) That is God's true Will for you!


~ Gone With the Wind ~

By Cindy Granke

~  ~  ~  ~  ~
While he was still speaking, another also came and said,
“Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking
wine in their oldest brother’s house, and suddenly
a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck
the four corners of the house, and it fell on
the young people, and they are dead;
and I alone have escaped to tell you!”

Job 1:18-19

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

I couldn’t help but think of Job, as all of these things came to pass over the night of April 27th, when over 300 tornadoes blew over five states within a 24 hour time frame.  People huddled in closets or whatever holes they could find to try to escape being carried away by the wind.  Parents tell of holding onto their children for dear life as the wind continued to suck one child from his mother’s grasp.  Can you imagine your hold on your child’s fingertips giving way and your little one being gone in a second?   

Many of us have experienced the loss of a parent, a child, a spouse, or a dear friend, due to illness, an accident or in a house fire.  However few of us have lost several family members, neighbors, and every thing we own – with only a pile of rubble left in its place - and all of that taking no longer than a moment or two.  

Tornadoes are not the only frightening causes of these catastrophic kinds of losses.  Consider our hurricanes, like Katrina and the wildfires in California and Texas, and the recent earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, in which the residents have suffered such terrible loss and grief.  Due to the nuclear catastrophe that followed on the heels of those horrific events, with everything they owned being sucked out to sea, they cannot even rebuild in some areas.


My heart breaks for those who have lost so much and had no place to run or hide.  Such physical and emotional tragedies have long been a part of the laws of nature which God set in process from the beginning, and confronted man when he was exiled from the garden of Eden.  My purpose in this article is to offer some comfort and reminders to Our Hope readers. 

Some of you are already familiar with the trials and tribulations of Job, if you’ve been a part of the study of Job, which Pat has been directing on our pages.  As if losing all his children had not been bad enough, Job also lost even more than that.   I don’t want to quote the whole first chapter of that book, but I wish to focus on the passage quoted at the top of this page. The fact is that he lost everything in one day - his livestock, his crops, his family – it was all gone, and then he suffered bodily affliction, too.   

Like Job, some of you may have lost everything in these recent disasters.  Many of you sustained physical injuries and all of you are facing emotional trauma.  Some of you have lost members of your family. In addition to all of that, you likely lost your  livelihood, places of business, hospitals, grocery stores, and every place you normally turned to for the physical necessities in life were also blown away.  Your children may no longer have a school. 

We think of you and pray for you in the tremendous losses you have sustained.  May I offer some thoughts from God’s word which I hope will comfort and give you strength?

There are times when our grief, or pain is such that we are unable to do more than cry, because mere words cannot express our despair. Our Lord understands our needs and our pain, because He listens to our hearts, not just our words (Romans 8:26-27). He knows the depth of sorrow which causes a man to pray, “with strong crying and tears” (Hebrews 5:7), because He has experienced it Himself, in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44-46).

There are so many comforting passages of Scripture that help at such times.  I can identify with many of the things David wrote during the down times in his life, when he reaffirmed his hope and confidence in the Lord.  At the end of this article, I will list some of them, in hopes that you will find comfort in them, as well.

Most everyone is familiar with the 23rd Psalm, and it is always very comforting.  But here are others passages, as well. Here are just a few. 


~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Psalm 4:1  Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.
Psalm 6:6-7  I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
Psalm 18:1-2  I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
Psalm 27:14  Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
Psalm 31:9-10  Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly. For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.
Psalm 34:18  The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Psalm 46:1-3   God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
Psalm 63:6-8   David prayed all through the long nights sometimes.  We should feel comfortable with our Lord and be able to do this when we are in great anguish. 
Psalm 73:25-26  God is the strength of our heart
Psalm 119:114  Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word
Psalm 147:3  He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. 

There are simply too many to quote them all.  Here are some others to add to your list.

Psalm 25:18-21; 28:7; 37:23-40; 57:1; 37:23-40; 62:5-8; 71:1-3; 91:2-4; 130:1-5; 138:3; 143:4-5; 145:14-21

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Often I'm hindered on my way,
Burdened so heavy I almost fall;
Then I hear Jesus sweetly say;
"Heaven will surely be worth it all."

Many the trials, toils and tears,
Many a heartache may here appall;
But the dear Lord so truly says:
"Heaven will surely be worth it all."

Toiling and pain I will endure,
Till I shall hear the death angel call;
Jesus has promised and I'm sure
Heaven will surely be worth it all.

Heaven will surely be worth it all.
Worth all the sorrows that here befall;
After this life with all its strife,
Heaven will surely be worth it all.

~ W. Oliver Cooper ~

In the dark of the midnight,
Have I oft hid my face;
While the storm howls above me,
And there's no hiding place;
'Mid the crash of the thunder,
Precious Lord, hear my cry;
"Keep me safe
'til the storm passes by."

'Til the storm passes over,
'Til the thunder sounds no more;
'Til the clouds roll forever from the sky,
Hold me fast, let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe
 'til the storm passes by.

Many times Satan whispers,
"There is no need to try;
For there's no end of sorrow,
There's no hope by and by";
But I know Thou art with me,
And tomorrow I'll rise;
Where the storms
never darken the skies.

When the long night has ended,
And the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence.
On that bright, peaceful shore.
In that land where the tempest
Never comes, Lord may I
Dwell with Thee
when the storm passes by.

~ Mosie Lister ~


Three Meditations in Loss of a Loved One

1. Love often longs to be the one who suffers alone in order for the loved one to be at peace.

Not Thou But I

It must have been for one of us, my own,
To drink this cup and eat this bitter bread,
Had not my tears upon thy face been shed,
Thy tears had dropped on mine; if I alone
Did not walk now, thy spirit would have known
My loneliness, and did my feet not tread
This weary path and steep, thy feet had bled
For mine, and thy mouth had for mine made moan;
And so it comforts me, yea, not in vain
To think of thy eternity of sleep,
To know thine eyes are tearless though mine weep,
And when this cup's last bitterness I drain,
One thought shall still its primal sweetness keep -
Thou hadst the peace and I the undying pain.
Philip Bourke Marston

2. Forgiveness is often too late to benefit the loved one that was lost.

If I Should Die Tonight

                    If I should die tonight,
My friends would look upon my quiet face,
Before they laid it in its resting place,
And deem that death had left it almost fair,
And laying snow-white flowers against my hair,
Would smooth it down with tearful tenderness,
And fold my hands with lingering caresss-
Poor hands, so empty and so cold tonight!
                    If I should die tonight,
My friends would call to mind with loving thought
Some kindly deed the icy hand had wrought;
Some gentle word the frozen lips had said;
Errands on which the willing feet had sped.
The memory of my selfishness and pride,
My hasty words, would all be put aside,
And so I should be loved and mourned tonight.
                    If I should die tonight,
Even heart estranged would turn once more to me,
Recalling other days remorsefully.
The eyes that chill me with averted glance
Would look upon me as of yore,
Would soften in the old familiar way;
For who wold war with dumb, unconscious clay?
So I might rest, forgiven of all tonight.
                   Oh friends, I pray tonight
Keep not your kisses for my dead, cold brow;
The way is lonely, let me feel them now.
Think gently of me; I am travel worn;
My faltering feet are pierced with many a thorn.
Forgive, O hearts estranged, forgive, I plead!
When dreamless rest is mine I shall not need
The tenderness for which I long tonight.
Arabella Eugenia Smith

3. We will again meet our loved one in the loving arms of Jesus.

He Is Not Dead

I cannot say, and I will not say
That he is dead. He is just away.
With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,
He has wandered into an unknown land
And left us dreaming how very fair
It needs must be, since he lingers there.
And you - oh, you, who the wildest yearn
For an old-time step, and the glad return,
Think of him faring on, as dear
In the love of There as the love of Here.
Think of him still as the same. I say,
He is not dead-he is just away.
James Whitcomb Riley


The Last Fight

by Robert F. Turner
via Plain Talk, January 1971

On the ruins of a theater in Ephesus there is a memorial to an athlete of the 2nd century A.D. which reads:

"He fought three fights,
and twice was crowned."

Watch out for that last step! You see, those "athletes" fought to the death. A man's last fight was always fatal.

So, the crown meant only that one changed opponents; and sooner or later the last would slay him. What a difference in this crown, and that of the apostle Paul:

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day..." (II Timothy 4:7,8).

Paul did more than fight "unto death" -- he fought unto life, eternal. If his fight of faith cost him his earthly life, it only meant he was now free to claim the crown that counted most (Revelation 2:10, II Cor. 5:6ff.). How different from those who die without hope.

Paul sought an enduring victory -- one that could not be taken from him. He exhorted Timothy, "Lay hold on eternal life..." (I Timothy 6:12). This called for training, perseverance, and above all, self control (I Corinthians 9:24-27). The athlete trained his body only to prolong the day when it would fail him; but Paul trained his that it might the better serve the Lord, and thus serve his eternal purposes.

We are all engaged in some sort of battle, and in a very real sense it is "unto death." The fatalist, the fool, resigns himself to shortchange. Though he fights 3,000 times, he can expect but 2,999 temporal crowns, not one of which he can take with him beyond that last fight. The futility of it all is enough to make a man throw in the towel.

The Faith gives purpose to life. The Christian fights, hard and often. But he has submitted himself to God's will, "strives lawfully" (II Timothy 2:5), and his fight is never in vain. Jesus Christ has provided for him a crown, and not for him only, "but unto all them also that love his appearing."                       



November 2017