Recently, I held glory in one hand and grief in another.
My friend was dying of pancreatic cancer. Short of a miracle, I knew she would soon see our Savior face to face. I went to see her not knowing how much she might have declined since my last visit. She was weak, her breathing was labored, but there was a look of knowing in her eyes as I prayed for her and with her. I prayed the glory prayers and promises and one of my favorite verses from Psalm 16:11, “We thank you that in your presence is fullness of joy and in your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
After praying with my friend and watching her husband and mother wipe tears from their faces while I did, I prepared to leave. She made a fierce effort to rise, and she sat on the side of the bed with her husband’s help, smiling a wide toothy grin as her husband and I said slightly funny things. In that effort I saw the strong, determined woman I know and love, but I saw more. Hope? A resolve to stay faithful until her final breath? A desire to live the gospel until the end by being attentive and loving, even though the effort exhausted her? Whatever it might have been, she still testified to the power of Christ in her weakness.
As a believer, at our death we are finally united with our true home—Jesus, heaven, and eternal life. Everyday we wrestle against all the futility and pain of a fallen world, but in death there is finally a union with glory, truth, love, and peace. For the believer, that is hope and cause for great rejoicing. We exhale weak and weary in one world and inhale in another, whole and holy. Death is a final victory for believers, but it is also evil’s last stand. We will be raised. Death will die. In death we surrender to the impact of the fall, but mock evil’s plans as we do because death won’t hold us, just like it didn’t hold Jesus. We embrace eternal life in death and that is glorious.
When I got to my car, I let go. Weeping with one side of my heart and glorying in eternal life and God’s grace with the other. I cried with helpless abandon and worshiped as I did. Scripture says believers grieve, but not as those without hope.
As I sat there, helplessly mopping my face with the one pathetic tissue I had in the car, I recalled what had taken place. There was glory and grief with us in that room. The hand holding, the kiss, the stroking of her face all seemed like goodbye—a place of deep grief. In prayer I was helping us both catch a glimpse of her new home—a place of glory and grace. We recalled together the hope found in Christ.
When I walked out the door I said, “I’ll see you later,” and I meant it.
(I actually saw her one more time before she joined our Savior today and tasted love, peace, and joy like she never experienced here. Save a spot for me at the banquet table, Melanie!)