I sit and wait. I occupy myself with the needful and the mundane. I read to my son. I email instructions to my class. I text a grocery list to my daughter. All the while my heart is in another place, another plane really. My dear friend, one who has taught me so much about the Kingdom of Heaven, is about to step into the Far Greater Country. The last message I received from her family said simply “she has her feet in the Jordan.” She is ready to depart this earthly existence. She has struggled with her mortality and concluded Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:23 is true, being with Christ is better by far.
But leaving is hard. My friend is only in her 50s. She has a husband and children and grandchildren who love her dearly. People she longed to grow old with and watch grow and marry and become who God created them to be. But cancer is a sinister foe and death is a reality for us all. A couple of years ago, she spoke prophetically and profoundly at our local Bible Study. She talked about her journey with cancer and the crippling fear she faced. She shared an analogy the Lord gave her to calm her fears. She recalled traveling when her kids were young. The family would stop at rest stops along the way. The kids would play on the playground and run in the grass. They thought the tall metal slides and squeaking chain swings were the most fun they could ever experience. When it came time to leave, the kids cried and protested. And my friend just stood there perplexed. She would tell them in frustration, “Don’t you know where we’re going? We’re heading to Disney World and you’re settling for an old rest stop playground.”
She said she knew she was only playing on the old playground right now. She knew her final destination is infinitely more beautiful and breathtaking and overwhelming than anything her mind can grasp. Paul says this earth is only a shadow of things to come. But knowing the truth and walking out the reality is too much for our earthly heart to comprehend. She told me just a few months before her health declined so quickly that she didn’t want to go, but she was at peace. She knew that God knew the number of her days and when she had finished what He needed her to do on earth, He would take her to her true home, and she knew it would be uncomprehendingly beautiful.
After that conversation, my prayers began to change. I asked the Lord to heal her, but more than that, I asked God to have His way. I went back to the simplicity of the prayer Jesus modeled for his disciples, “Thy Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) Ultimately, isn’t that the most powerful prayer we can pray over those in Christ who are sick and suffering? We can ask God for healing, yes. We are free to ask for it boldly. And we should. But we ask humbly, knowing that this world is NOT our home. On this earthly shore, our vision and understanding is limited. Why would we want those we love so much to stick around this broken, rusting place when Jesus has prepared a heavenly home for them? A home that eye has not seen nor ear heard.
It’s because we selfishly want them here a little longer. We’ll miss them. Our hearts will ache in their absence. The hole they leave behind will be profound and deep. But for those who belong to Christ, those who have confessed with their mouth Jesus is Lord and believed in their heart God raised Christ from the dead, they are citizens of heaven. Their life is just beginning when they take their first breath in heaven. The sorrows and tears of this present place are left behind and complete healing and wholeness are ahead. If, as a follower of Christ, I say this is what I believe. Then I have to walk it out in the hardest places.
Today that place of waiting is painful, but hopeful. I have prayed fervently that the Lord would take her quickly home, but I am resting fully that His will is best. Asking Him to have His way and resting in His sovereignty and love is the only way to grieve with hope. Because of the reality of Jesus Christ who defeated death, even death itself cannot overcome us. In Christ, we are more alive than we have ever been before. May His will be done. I trust Him in life, and in death.
*Epilogue: My precious friend crossed the Jordan and walked into the Promised Land just a few days after this was written. Her memorial focused clearly on the hope we have in Christ. Her life and her death have spurred many on toward a deeper relationship with the One who saved her and made her broken soul whole once again.