Is Death Punishment? {In Memory of Lost Loved Ones}

***Bumping up to refresh my soul... because this is always a hard time of year.

As a Christian I would be duty-bound and somewhat convicted to answer with a resounding NO! Death is when we are called home to our Lord and Savior, where we get to bow at the feet of Almighty God, and were there is no sin, pain or sickness. Death is a rescue from the stench of this earth. We are only in our temporary home... and as my dear Kali put it-- when we are on Earth it's like we are on vacation and we will get to go back to our Real Home soon. Based on what I know of Heaven, this is a cruddy vacation, but her sentiment is precious ;-)

As I was driving home from my weekly Wednesday night bible study class (which absolutely ROOCKSSS even though I have a hard time shutting up and totally overshare) I was driving down the road praising the Lord with every cell in my body. I was singing at the top of my lungs to a song on the radio, with hand lifted to the sky. And, as I typically do, I had a wave of anxiety hit me for just a second... "What if I wrecked and died RIGHT NOW? What if the last time I saw my husband and children today was the LAST TIME? What if they get hurt or sick or have an accident when I am up here and they are down there? What if I died and my family lost another one of us? How could they bear it?" Then the next thought was exorbitantly silly in multiple ways. A) That I thought it. B) That it comforted me. I thought... "I can't die RIGHT NOW! I'm praising and singing to God. I wouldn't die right now while I'm worshiping him..."

Ok, the flaws in my logic are as follows:

1) I am assuming that God would *kill me* which is why I think that if I'm worshipping Him, he won't. I mean, who would kill someone who is praising them?

2) I am assuming that death is a punishment so if I pray for safety and well being and worship hard enough, then I (or my family) won't die... today anyway.

3) That my worship of Him would change the plan He has laid out for my life.

Tonight, I'm really wanting to tackle point #2 because I think it is the BIG LIE. Death is a punishment. I think we all like to think that it's not because we know, in theory, Heaven is way better and sounds like a cool place to be. However, we, in practice, fear death and see it as a punishment... a "taking away of life."

  • Death is a punishment because it takes those from us that we love and we want them HERE with US, everyday, forever.
  • Death is a punishment because it's unfair... so many who are horrible people live to a ripe old age while the young and just die.
  • Death is a punishment because we don't understand it. Even those with a significant faith life cannot fathom Heaven so we have a hard time *looking forward* to something that is a complete unknown.
  • Death is a punishment because so frequently it is not fast and painless, but long and painful and drains the life of all those around the afflicted.

So, how do we "practice" that we believe death is a punishment?

We go to significant lengths to keep ourselves and our families safe... safe from DEATH: Seatbelts, car seats, home alarms, guns, self-defense classes, prayer for safe travels, helmets, FDA, USDA, Homeland Security, etc etc etc  Like 90% of our lives are built around protection from the bad, from the end, from Death (and I totally made that percentage up).

Now, first we can assume that God has endowed us with a certain instinct to preserve our lives at all cost and to a much greater length, the lives of our children. There's no wonder that we invest so much in self-preservation. It's an in-dwelt instinct as old as time, to protect or lives and and the lives of our children. We are seen as deeply mentally ill if we are willing or desiring to end our lives sooner rather than later (which I don't obviously argue with). I mean, a guy sawed his own arm off to get out of a cleft in some rocks and drug himself lifeless miles for help. That's a STRONG instinct.

However, we also have to stop and think about this (as Christians)... IF we believe that this is our temporary home, then how faithful are we that we fight leaving it so hard? And we grieve with no end in sight for those that we've lost? And I don't mean stop wearing your seatbelt and take up sky-diving. I have no death wish.

What I'm speaking of is the life-altering consequences of the death of a loved one? Especially a *premature* one. As long as we view death as a punishment, as a taking away of life (especially before someone "should've" died), we cannot ever have peace. Ever. Until we, ourselves, are dead.

I personally have had significant loss in my life. I've lost a parent, a grand-parent who was very much like a parent, class mates and friends, as well a my cousin. My cousin was the deepest and closest to my heart because A) I loved him like a brother. We were raised as brother and sister... he, my sister and our other cousin. And B) The circumstances surrounding his death were sudden, earth-shattering and to our human understanding, completely senseless.

Time and time again, we (and I mean my entire family) have retraced the steps and events of that Halloween day 7 years ago. We have seen the images, re-visited those words we could never unhear, cried the hot and angry tears, and asked time and time again, "LORD, WHY!?!" Every day for 7 years we have all remembered him and wept and asked WHY? We have thought about special memories fondly then wept with the sadness that we will not be able to create more. Every year, when October comes around, a deep sadness sinks into all of our bones with dread of the memory of it all.. of the day. The saddest day of all.

We ask WHY because we do not understand, cannot understand His will. On paper, we know it's all for His good and His purposes and His plan, but we can't see HOW it was good or purposefull. Couldn't there have been another way? He was 26 and a GOOD MAN! He was hard-working, loving, a devoted son, and a good friend. He didn't DESERVE to die. His family didn't DESERVE this heart ache and pain. His friends didn't DESERVE to lose him. His death has impacted countless people and his memory is thoroughly intact and I am quite confident always will be, as long as we all draw breath.

The problem for me, and for many of us no matter who it is that we have lost, is that I view his leaving us as a punishment. I view the taking away of his life as a LOSS for us and for him. It is not. It is only gain. He gained ETERNAL LIFE. Right now, at this moment, he is in perfect rest with his father. He sees all, knows all, and feels no sin/pain/anger/hurt/torment. He can't even feel our pain that we experience fresh everyday for losing him. He is in the angel armies paving a path for those he loved while he was flesh and blood. He has met Jesus and been comforted and loved by him. He is in Heaven. Literally heaven. His death was shocking and horrific and untimely in our eyes, but in the eyes of His maker, it was perfect. He was coming home to see his true father, once and for all. For you see, God had already given HIS ONLY SON for us. He understands what it means to see your only son taken from you. Jody was our only son, but he was one of many to God and now he is seated at His right hand in righteousness.

Death seems like a punishment to those left behind because we find it so hard to truly believe without doubting. If we could truly imagine Heaven and see it for a second, we'd probably be ok with our family members being there. But death, like all other discomforts of life, is a way to forge us for His purposes. If our loved ones never died, how ready would we be to go Home? If we never had to sense loss or devastation, would be we ok with staying here in this flesh? As days tick by and all our bodies slowly progress toward death, our father is drawing us nearer. We are all dying. Every minute of every day. He just chooses to bring home some sooner than others. NOT because it's He's taking away their life, not because He wants us to live in pain and misery for the rest of our time in these bodies, but because He loves us each immensely.

He knit us together in our mother's womb and numbered the hairs on our heads. He made us in His image and loved us with pure mercy and grace... a perfect love. He wants us to fulfill the job He has for us here and come home. If even it hurts the ones we leave behind, He wants to reward us for a job well-done and bring us home to Him... our TRUE reward. We prize earthly rewards so highly then try to escape our eternal reward out of fear and disbelief. We do not know what God's purpose was for bringing Jody into this world OR for taking him home so early (too early in our eyes), but God knows and His plan was fulfilled to perfection through Jody (and all whom we lose). How blessed is that?

Jody did his work. His toil is over. It was so much shorter than any of us would've liked. The same goes for Daddy, Grandma, Tracy, David, Cory... so many I've known and lost. Their toil is over, they are HOME. For eternity. For forever and forever and forever, they are home in the lap of the one who created them from a whisper. They are home and so blessed. And blessed are we to have gotten to live with them, love with them, and walk through this journey with them. They are not gone because He doesn't love them or because He doesn't love us. They are gone because He loves us all so much.

That's sooo hard to process and it's taken me 7 long years of why's and angry fists and buckets of tears and gut-wrenching sobs to finally get it. He is home and one day I will be to. Maybe tonight in my sleep or 50 years from now, but we will all be united together in worship of a loving and gracious God. We will all know the company that Jody is currently keeping. I hope the Lord doesn't allow the spiritual Alzheimer's that I so frequently suffer to take this deep gut-knowing from me. I pray that this great hope that we all have for life eternal never leaves my bones but allows me to say good-bye with greater grace and thanksgiving than I ever imagined before.

To my family, you are my world. It seemed our world cracked opened and swallowed us all alive. But He is there, holding us still... and Jody is smiling down.

How I will ALWAYS remember us all.
 Exodus 33:22-23 tells us "When my glory passes by, I will put you in the cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand, until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen"

When we feel the earth quake beneath our feet and see only darkness around us, His Glory is passing by and he has tucked us away in protection. When we come out from the darkness, we will know that He was close enough to touch and it was His Glory shaking us to our core. ONLY in his closest presence are we sheltered by His hand.