I’m really excited that Fall is finally here. To mark my excitement, I decided to get back to blogging more regularly. I was going to write a post about how my life changed this past Summer and how the Fall of 2014 is significant to my life. As I was thinking about how to go about this, I remembered a paper that I wrote for a writing class that I was taking at the beginning of the year. I think sharing this paper will be the best way to lay the foundation before I go into how my summer went. It also goes very well with the theme of my blog.
To Die is Gain
Paul, an apostle of Jesus, wrote a letter to the church of the Philippians while he was in prison. It was meant to encourage them and help them to continue serving the Lord even in his absence. He had hope that he would be with them again but he did not want them to stop serving God while waiting for him. His desire was that the gospel would be preached no matter what. He even mentioned this in verse 18 of the first chapter.
My focus, however, is in verse 21 of chapter 1: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (NIV). The preceding verse mentions how Paul’s desire is that Christ be glorified in his body “whether by life or by death.”
Within the past year, I have read Paul’s letter to the Philippians about 5 times through. The best part is, every time I read it, I find something I didn’t see the last time I read. Within this time, the verse that has really stood out to me is this one. Paul’s attitude in the face of death is quite unique here. If you read on, you will notice that he seems to prefer death to life. He even says it is, “…better by far.” He’s not saying this in a suicidal way, out of desperation or sadness. He is saying it out of hope. He is showing his great desire to get to heaven.
I have often found myself wishing that Christ would return so that we can go to heaven. It’s a desire that many Christians have (I assume). The difference is my desire is for Christ to come back while I am still alive. We are all afraid of death to some degree. You will hear many Christians say that they pray for a quick and painless death. We’re afraid of the pain associated with death. I find this interesting seeing as Christ taught his disciples that they should “die daily” and take up their cross and follow him. And, come to think of it, the death of Jesus was not quick and painless. As a true Christian (follower of Christ), neither is mine. If we are to take up a cross daily and die daily then we will experience the pain of dying, however the glory to come thereafter makes it all worth it.
In the past year, my attitude towards death has changed dramatically. This is because it’s been one year since my mom passed away. On Thursday, February 14th 2013, I received news that my mom had passed away. As my pastor was relaying the news to me, I knew from his countenance what he was about to say. But as he said the words, I remember hoping that he would not say it, that it would be something else like she had been rushed to hospital. But he did say it and for a second I did not believe it. As it began to sink in, all sorts of different emotion rushed through me. I cried so deeply that it made everyone around me cry too. Every time I remember that moment I still get tears in my eyes.
By God’s grace however, it all quickly turned to hope and by the next day, I was even able to tell my friends, “I’m happy”. It had slowly begun to dawn on me what this really meant. The reason why it was so sad for me is because I imagined my mom experiencing the pain of dying and that was something I just could not handle. But when I really thought about it, it occurred to me that she would never have to feel any pain again. It was all over. She had finished the race and her time had come to go to heaven and be with God for eternity.
My mom’s death changed my life in many different ways. It helped me become more independent and allow myself to grow up. It helped me to discover how many friends I have and how much they love me. It helped me to get much closer to God. However, there are two lessons that I learned that I don’t think I would have had it not happened. These lessons have stuck with me and I hope that I don’t forget them in the future.
Many times in the few weeks after she died, I would feel that God was literally sitting next to me when I felt lonely. This was when I learned that God really does care for me. In tough situations, it’s easy for us to see God as uncaring. In trying to comfort us, people will say things like, “Everything happens for a reason.”, “It’s not the end of the world.”, or “It will all work out for good.” We know all these things are true, so we try to swallow our pain. Doing this unfortunately creates resentment in our hearts and we find ourselves questioning God and thinking that He does not care. When the truth is, he really does care about your pain.
To put this into perspective, I imagine a child who falls and scrapes their knee. The child’s mother knows that the scrape is not that big of a deal. With a bit of cleaning and care it could be solved in just a few hours. The child on the other hand is engrossed in that moment and is only able to focus on the pain. The mother cares for her child so much that she does all she can to soothe their pain. This is the same way God reacts when we are hurt. He knows that this is just another bump in the road and that we will get through it in no time. But he still cares enough to comfort us when we are going through the pain.
During her funeral, I was chosen to speak in the place of the children and I had this speech all planned out. I was going to talk about how she was my role model and how wonderfully she had raised us. Two minutes before I was called on stage, I had a whole new speech. It amazed even me. It carried so much truth and depth that I knew it had to have come from God. I’ll share a bit of it.
“Before my mom died, if any one would have asked me what the worst thing that could happen to me was, I would have said my mom dying. This is obviously because of how much I loved her. After she died, I found that to be untrue. The reason is, if I loved my mom as much as I thought I did; then her dying could not be the worst thing that could happen to me, because I would know that it is the best thing that could happen to her.”
This literally translates to the attitude of Paul in Philippians 1:21. I have repeated these words to myself many times since then, and they always give me that extra hope that I need to get through each day. This is an attitude that I have learnt to have even when thinking about my own life and death. And I don’t think I could have developed this unless something drastic like this happened.
One year after my mom went to heaven, I still find myself crying for her and missing her. But I thank God because the person I was 1 year ago is not the person I am now. Now I can boldly say, like Paul, that for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. I know that I will miss my mom in the years to come. There are so many hurdles I will have to go through in life without her by my side. Regardless of that I have the hope that I will see her again someday and that we will spend eternity together. Besides, what’s a few years when I have the promise of eternal life?
That was a long read, I know, but thank you for reading. Please share and leave me your comments and suggestions below. I look forward to sharing more of my Heaven Journey. Many blessings!