If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Job 14:14
My wife and I had supper at our beloved 63 Diner for the last time one evening in July. We took our time, not knowing we would never be here again. Soon our meals together would be over. But we have a date we are sure to keep. It will be with Jesus and all the saints at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
It was just at the beginning of dusk when we finished and headed for the parking lot. I suggested we take the country way home, knowing that is what she liked to do. We turned off the highway onto a country road through woods and farm fields.
Off to the left the full moon was rising as the sun was setting behind a row of trees. Suddenly three whitetail deer burst from cover and ran across the road in front of us. The large buck soared into the air to clear a fence, followed by two does. They sailed over the wire fence with room to spare and scudded across a bean field kicking up little spurts of dust as they headed for the distant woods.
My wife took it all in with such a happy expression. We realized that if we had been a few seconds early or late, we would have missed this beautiful scene. I am so glad we had this evening together.
Soon after, her cancer advanced to where she could hardly eat at all. I tried to fix her things she could keep down. She loved grapes and other fruit and did pretty well with them. But no matter what I prepared it came to a point where I held a pail while she vomited it all up.
We both knew she was dying. Her faith was so great that she was never downcast. I tried not to be, as I shared her faith in the Resurrection and the eternal life to follow. But if there is a worse torture than watching the person you love most in the world as they live out their last days, I don't know what it is.
Our last ride together was to the hospital where she died. Her last ride of all was in a hearse.
A few days before she died she told me she had read the entire New Testament again. She said, "You know what I really love? It is where Jesus says 'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.'" (John 16:33) She had tears in her eyes as she said these words, not of sorrow but of joy.
A few days later my phone rang and her doctor told me to come to the hospital right away. He said my wife had had a stroke or something. He was not sure.
I was there in less than fifteen minutes. A lady met me just outside her room and told me she was dead. I went into her room. Her doctor was waiting for me. He said mournfully that she had collapsed as she was talking to him.
He gave me some time alone with her. Already little red tracings of blood vessels appeared on her face. I patted her hands that were crossed on her chest.
"I'm so sorry my darling, but I'll see you in the rapture" was all I could say.
My friends, whatever they believed, did not try to comfort me by saying, "She's in a better place." They know my hope is--as was hers--in the return of Jesus and our reunion in the first resurrection. Until then my darling is asleep in Christ.
My own doctor tried to comfort me. When I went for my exam shortly after, he expressed regret that he had not seen her that day. He went to visit her, out of friendship, but arrived too late.
He beamed at me as he said, "Well, there's a new angel in heaven now."
I said nothing concerning this. He has been a good doctor and a good friend, but I knew his faith.
His father had been a Presbyterian minister, and from his accounts, a good one who, like his son, cared for people very deeply. But my doctor did not share his father's faith. He told me, "Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, I wouldn't be surprised that some day we'll find they're all the same."
Sure doc. Have you ever seen any of them but Jesus pictured as nailed to a cross?
We all bring different things to the faith, I suppose--different hopes and desires. And don't we all take different things away?
I would like to give you my personal testimony right now. If I did not believe God sent Jesus to be willingly sacrificed to pay for my sin, my life would be worthless and I would have no future at all. I owe Him everything. But where almost everyone I know, hear or read about, focuses on sin and forgiveness, right and proper as that is, my personal focus is on eternal life through the resurrection.
I hope you don't think I am a heretic. Sin haunts me like a buzzard that follows me around. I am aware of sin all the time. I thank God for His grace every day.
But when I think of my wife, my loved ones who are dead, and myself some day--unless Jesus returns first--it is the hope of resurrection that fills my heart. We have an "appointed day" my friends. Dead or alive we wait for it. The world, the flesh and the Devil can't stop that day from coming. I sure hope it is soon!
Let me quote from Job again. Thank you Lord, for including these words in your Bible!
Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
2For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.