I’ll still bless you in the middle of the storm, in the middle of my trial.
I’ll still bless you, when I’m in the middle of the road, and I don’t know which way to go.
– Naomi Raine
It has been two months since my dad died.
I had just picked my kids up from their daycare orientation when I received a call from my brother telling me that dad had suffered a stroke and would be unlikely to make it through to the next morning.
A couple of hours later I was on a plane to Sydney praying I would make it to dad before he died; flicking through my Prayer Book considering what prayers I would pray and what Scripture I would read to dad before he met his Maker.
He was, by appearances, unconscious. But I was able to sit beside him, hold him, tell him I loved him, pray, read Scripture to him, sing to him, and watch him breathe his final breath.
By God’s grace I arrived in time to see him before he died. He was unresponsive and, by appearances, unconscious. But I was able to sit beside him, hold him, tell him I loved him, pray, read Scripture to him, sing to him, and watch him breathe his final breath.
Death is a horrendous thing—the Bible describes it as the last enemy (1Cor 15:26).
It steals, sometimes with no notice or warning, that which is most precious to us. The inadequacy of what remains—photos, memories, and a gravestone to capture the joy and comfort of my dad’s smile, the strength of his presence, the familiarity of his voice, the warmth of his hug—is like a hammer to the heart. Death, and its twin: sin (which seeded death’s great corruption) is what is broken with this world. It was not meant to be this way.
My son Josh who is three years old captured this better than anyone. My husband Andrew took him to the grave and, following some deep reflection on observing where ‘Pop’ was buried, Josh announces: ‘I poo on death!’ Amen.
I returned to Melbourne, robbed, but also clearer on what matters.
I don’t know where my dad was with Jesus in the end. God does. But what I do understand more than ever is that we are made for eternity. The gaping hole of loss; the crippling absence in spaces that were full of presence; the abrupt end to something that was meant to be enjoyed with the luxury of time and the confidence of there always being more; all suggest to me that we were made for somewhere else. Somewhere where death no longer reigns. Somewhere where thieves cannot break in and steal.
I don’t know where my dad was with Jesus in the end. But what I do understand more than ever is that we are made for eternity.
Jesus, when met by Martha who had just experienced her brother die, said:
‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25).
At City on a Hill, where I serve, we have an articulated mission: ‘To know Jesus, and make Jesus known’. These distinct (and yet inherently united) realities—knowing Jesus’ life and love, and making that life and love known to others—is the great call to all who believe. The reality is, there is no greater mission. What we are part of is, in the end, everything.
So remember next Sunday, when you gather around Jesus, the resurrection and the life; when the gospel of life and hope is proclaimed, despite this broken world where death breaks in and takes away; when Jesus’ invitation to believe in him and to live, even though we die, is extended to your neighbourhood and city; when you and your brothers and sisters are strengthened in your faith and emboldened to make him known; there is no greater thing that you can be part of. In the end, this is what matters. Jesus is everything.
‘In this world you will have trouble’ says Jesus. ‘But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33).