Two of my friends died this past week. One was young and his death was a surprise to everyone. The other was a little older and had fought a long battle with cancer. Two different people living in different states with different circumstances surrounding their passing.
Yet both stung.
It seems that since we have moved to Abilene, we have attended more than our fair share of funerals, memorial services, and burials. We have attended a large number of candlelight prayer vigils trying to offer up support to those who have lost loved ones.
And it never gets easier.
There is such a feeling of loss; of defeat, when someone dies. It is so final. The family and friends left behind have no chance of seeing their loved one again. When someone is sick or dying, we can hold out hope that they will get better. But death…death is the end.
And I know what I’m supposed to believe. I know that “it’s all going to get better one day.” I know that someday, sometime, somewhere….
The verse that keeps haunting me is when the Apostle Paul reminds us what the Scripture promises: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” It haunts me because I know exactly where the sting and the victory of death are: they are within me. They are crushing me. They are often times leading me to despair. So I’m sorry, Paul (the apostle, not myself!), I’m sorry, but I think death carries a pretty big wallop. I think death is enjoying a rather large victory and a rather large sting.
But I read the verses again, and I notice a little word that I missed before: “then.”
I have a “then.”
I Corinthians 15:54,55 from the Voice translation says: “And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says, “Life everlasting has victoriously swallowed death. Hey, Death! What happened to your big win? Hey, Death! What happened to your sting?’”
Did you catch the word that I had missed? THEN!
THEN death will have no victory.
THEN death will have no sting.
But right now, it really hurts. Right now, death does hurt; death does have a sting. Death is enjoying a victory of sorts.
There is a time coming, that Paul discusses throughout I Corinthians 15, when everything will change. Death will no longer have this hold over us that it has now. But that time is not here yet. So I hurt. I grieve. I mourn.
But I remember: I have a “then.”