FENTON, MI – It was in the early morning hours of my little West Texas home, just as the sun was peeking over the horizon that the earth-shaking rumble began. I thought someone had driven their vehicle into the side of our home. The fact was that we had experienced a small earthquake, which was not that uncommon in those regions of the west. A few shakes, a plate or two knocked from their display in the den, and small amount of anxiety. That was all that we noticed during that seemingly uneventful time. It was just a tremor. They happen all the time. Nothing to worry about.
Later that day, reports came in from different media outlets that a huge crater had formed in one of the surrounding oil fields. It was the size of several football fields, and as it formed it had taken several storage tanks into its depths and some sizable pieces of oilfield equipment along with them. A rumble, a shake, and all that was left was an enormous gaping hole.
Every day in families throughout Michigan and the world, great quakings occur. With little fanfare, a rumble and a shake is felt in heaven and in the hearts of so many when one of our loved ones die. When they take their last breath and pass from this life into the next, they leave behind gaping holes. Not ones in the crust of the earth, but in the hearts and lives of all of those who remain behind. The loss of their presence and leadership as a husband and wife, father and mother, grandfather and grandmother, brother and sister, uncle and aunt and friend will leave many with an aching sense that something is desperately missing in their lives.
For some, we knew their passing could be eminent, and at times, as Christians we have even prayed for that difficult yet sweet relief to come quickly. The fact remains that though our prayers of the ultimate healing are answered, we sense a great loss. Our hearts are broken, and a cavernous wound of grief exposes our inward most selves to the stinging winds of memory. Nothing can really fill the void our loved ones leave behind and for us who have the Hope of Heaven in our hearts, only time and the tenderness of God’s presence will heal the bleeding of our souls.
C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience and shouts to us in our pain.” If that is true, and I believe it is, then it is during times of grief and hurt that we should hear His voice more clearly. It is during these times that our attention should be His. When someone dies the inevitable question always surfaces. Why? Why him or her? Why now? Viewing life from heaven’s perspective is not a privilege we have while the story of our life is still being written.
My wife has the terrible habit of going to the last pages of a book, and reading them first to find out how the story will end. She just cannot tolerate the anticipation and suspense. For all of us, our life’s story, or the book of our life is a process. It is a process that must be completed in its entirety. Each page must follow the other with no interruptions. We cannot skip to the end of the book, read how it all turns out, and get a premature understanding of everything that transpires in our lives. Nor can we know in advance the purpose of it all, but one day we will. One day we shall no longer look through a poor mirror, but we shall see Him face to face and we will understand fully.
Until that day arrives, we must be satisfied that He who knows the past, present and future, has given us victory over the gaping grave and provided eternal life for all those who will trust in Him.
Though our lives may quake and rumble when death visits our world, Easter has filled the hopelessness of the grave and chasms of fear. The earth shook on that great Resurrection Day and death was defeated.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.