As you know, if you read my previous blog, we have spent the past week mourning the loss of a dearly loved family member. As we process and grieve, we have naturally had a multitude of thoughts and feelings flood through. What IS heaven really like? What will it feel like when my soul leaves this earthly body? What is grandpa experiencing RIGHT NOW? What will it be like for Grandma to adjust to a new normal after spending well over 60 years sharing this earthly space with her loved one? How does God determine who gets to live for a long time on earth and who only gets a short time?
Somewhere amidst all of the questions and wonderings, in popped a verse: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
Death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
For years (long before I came into the picture) the house of Grandma and Grandpa was a house of feasting. Up until a few years ago, they had their entire family (3 children + their spouses, plus all grandchildren and eventually their great-grandkids) over for all of the major holidays. They selflessly cooked a large, delicious meal and fed everyone. The house of feasting is great and full of memories. I can testify to that fact. Yet, God says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning.” Why is that?
Here is what I have come up with: When we are feasting, we are focused on and delighting in the material world, a world that will eventually fade away. When we are mourning, we are mindful of a world (or realm) beyond the one in which we are living. THAT world is the ultimate destiny of every person.
It is tough to be mindful of the unseen when there are so many things to be seen in front of our face. Distraction is a powerful tool of the enemy. Therefore, we must be intentional about remembering our ultimate destiny, and we must be equally intentional about living accordingly. We are here on earth to prepare for eternity. We are either preparing for and getting used to God’s presence because we are going to spend eternity in the presence of a perfect God, or we are preparing to spend forever without experiencing his presence at all. We need to be intentional in remembering that this world is not all there is.
Grandpa was 91 when he died. He lived a full and long life here on earth. I believe he lived each day mindful of the reality that death is the destiny of every person. He was faithful and loyal. He worked and served in the places he felt called by God. He and his wife remained loyal to the same church family from the moment the church began. They helped start their current church. They would not be counted among the list of “church hoppers.” They know (knew) that church is the people, not the institution.
As mentioned before, Grandpa worked at the same hardware store for 75 years. He literally gave his life to working for one business.
The only ladders he sought to climb were the ones that were useful for helping him repair something that was in need of fixing. No corporate ladder for him. And he was happy. He faithfully provided for the needs of his family. He almost always had a smile on his face. The only time I can remember him not smiling was when he was moved to tears by the goodness of God or seeing God work in someone’s life. He would also grieve for those who were hurting.
Grandpa understood that people are what is most important in life. The generation of grandma and grandpa does not see people or circumstances as disposable. They know that relationships take time and energy and commitment. They know that work is good for a person. I believe that they also know that death is the destiny of every person.
It could be that they have lived longer, so they understand their destiny better than those of us in the younger generation; however, I think there is more to it. I think they were planted in a richer soil than our generation was planted. We have been starved of the essential ingredients that grow a life into a rich, fruit-bearing plant. Our lives have been padded by modern conveniences and technology – all wonderful things – yet, void of rich food for the soul. Technology makes life appear easier, but at the same time, we are slowly losing sight of the organic world God planted us in – one in which people (not self) were all that mattered.
Thankfully, God is our Master Gardener. God has not abandoned our generation that seems too distracted to notice Him. God has not forsaken a people that lean toward self more than leaning toward others. He is faithfully pursuing us, drawing us to remember that all of the rules he gave us in his Word are for our good – that it may go well with us. He wants what is best for us and he knows we will not find true peace or happiness apart from him. Only through Him and in Him, can we endure even the toughest of life circumstances and come through stronger than when we entered.
For some reason, death being the destiny of every man feels easier to accept when it comes at the end of a long-lived life. When death comes sooner and unexpectedly, that destiny feels more difficult to embrace. I have been especially mindful lately of those who have lost a loved one far too early. If that is you, I am so sorry.
A few days ago, a family in our community lost a loving husband and father. I did not know him personally, but he was only 3 months older than me when he died. His death was completely unexpected by those of us on earth. I do not know why God chose to take him at 32 years old and Grandpa at 91 or maybe your child at 12 weeks in-utero, but I DO know and believe that those who get to be IN the presence of God have it far better than those of us who are still waiting for the day we get to meet Him face to face. They have been spared the heartaches that this world can serve.
Jesus says, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
And He says, “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21).
“Death is the destiny of every person; the living should take this to heart” …we should take it to heart and not be fearful, for “the day of death is better than the day of birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1). The day we are born, we are born into a world that has the presence of sin. When we die, if we have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus, we are born anew into a world without sin. While we are here (earth), there is much joy to be had, yet intermixed with sorrow. When we are there (heaven), it will be all joy. I long for the day with no more suffering. I am still quite attached to THIS world (for some good reasons like my family and for other reasons that are not as noble). As God continues his good work in me, I want to seek to live each day here and now with purpose and intentionality. We are all here for a reason. If you can get past the cliché, imagine how your life might be different if you truly took that to heart…