From Psalms 37:
(v18-19) “Day by day the Lord observes the good deeds done by godly men, and gives them eternal rewards. He cares for them when times are hard, even in famine, they will have enough.
(v23-24)The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand.
(v32-37) But the good man, what a different story! For the good man, the blameless, the upright, the man of peace, he has a wonderful future ahead of him. For him there is a happy ending.” The Living Bible
One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Psalms 37. It is full of holy living “instructions” which, when practiced, become a way of peaceful and purposeful living. At its beginning, it talks of trusting and delighting in the Lord, then committing all to the Lord, and then finally resting in the Lord. (See the book “The Cycle of Victorious Living” by Rev. Earl Lee). Today I’m pulling from it some of the verses that talk specifically about “a godly man” and “a good man” as I’m going to share with you about the recent passing of my older brother, Bob. He beautifully fit these Biblical descriptions and is now experiencing his eternal rewards and rest.
On Wednesday, March 31st I had had a busy day. It was full of various appointments and obligations, and some fun in the form of several hours with my five year old granddaughter. In the late afternoon, I turned the ringer off on my phone so that I could concentrate on fixing dinner without interruption. About 9:45 PM I just happened to see my phone screen light up. It was a call from my sister. At the same time, I noticed that I had received several voice messages on my phone. Thinking tentatively and fearfully that it was quite late for her to be calling, I hesitantly took her call. Through a tearful voice she informed me that our older brother, Bob, had passed away in the late afternoon. “Our big brother has gone to be with Jesus” she sobbed. “Oh NO, oh No!” I repeated many times, tears welling up in my eyes. I sat down and through my tears asked her many questions, urgently needing details. He had died several hours earlier and his body had already been picked up by the morgue. That made me sad in that his home was only about 15 minutes from mine and I so wanted to have hugged his earthly body one more time. After we hung up, I realized that the voice messages that were on my phone were from two of his three sons, tearfully telling me the same heartbreaking news. Even though it was not a complete surprise, his death seemed unexpected and shocking. He had barely made it to 80 years of age in February, in spite of his ongoing congestive heart failure complications. There were other health issues too, which had required frequent hospitalizations. His last years were fraught with health concerns, pain and suffering. But now he was free, released from all that, rejoicing in the presence of Jesus. In light of that, we should not have been so sad.
Now, in reality, no one is sad for his newly restored heavenly health; but we are definitely sad for ourselves and for the unfulfilled dreams Bob might have had. We are sad because now there is a big void in our sibling group of four. His own family now has that “empty chair” normally occupied by their husband, dad, grandpa and great-grandpa. This person who was consistently there with a sympathetic spirit, a caring heart and a quick wit is absent. The “presence of absence” is very real.
It’s all a stark reminder that life truly is a “vapor.” Too short. And, let’s face it, when you are living and breathing and enjoying your life, you just don’t want to be reminded of that. We all love life and planning ahead to the experiences that give us joy. But as the days and years pass, we must reframe our future plans through the lens of how we want to be remembered and how our faith might be emulated. As believers, we ask ourselves: “Has loving God and my neighbor been a priority in my living?” As believers, we believe heaven to be our soul’s future.
For me, now, the loss of Bob is great and will be felt the rest of my earthly life. But I find great comfort in the fact he loved the Lord with his whole heart. He loved his “neighbor” as himself. He did not hesitate to pray with others when the opportunity presented itself. That was one of his many spiritual gifts. And, he served the Lord by serving others, until he was no longer physically able to do so, except with prayer. In other words, he was a good and godly man. The scriptures above are promises from God that I claim for comfort. They bring me peace and even joy, for my brother especially. I also claim them as a woman, knowing that these promises are for everyone, not just for the literal “man.” The “wonderful future” promised is beyond our limited earthly understanding. But I believe it must mean simply being in the presence of God and the other saints who have gone before. That most certainly can be called heaven. Thanks be to God.
Let us pray...
We thank you for the abundant breath of life. And when that life is over, we rejoice in your promise and hope of heaven. Your comforting arms hold us always, both in our living and in our dying. Our hearts are grateful. Amen.