It's been two months since my family suffered the loss of my grandpa. Throughout the adjustment to the idea of life without his presence here anymore, it's been a huge blessing to know that He is safely in the arms of Jesus. It never ceases to amaze me, however, the way God can take something you've always known and then present it to you in a way you've never thought of before. And in a way that just puts you in awe of Him once again! If you've lost someone you care about, maybe you'll be able to relate to what I learned. But first, to explain how it started:
A couple weeks ago I was visiting my sweet grandma. While I was there, I had the occasion to go into the basement...somewhere I haven't been in years. Talk about memories! I could almost see all my aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered down there for Christmas with wrapping paper everywhere! On my way back upstairs, I happened to glance at a door - the door to my grandpa's workshop. I opened it and took a peek inside. Now, my grandpa was 89 years old. I'm not sure how often he got down there to work anymore, but Gramps always loved to tinker, so I like to imagine that he still found reasons to be in there when he could. In any case, the room definitely felt like he had just been there. Objects on the workbench, suggesting projects that were left unfinished...his hands the last to place them where I now saw them; his flannel work shirts and work apron hanging on a nail beneath pegboard filled with all his nails, screws, and I don't know what else; a router and table saw just waiting for his next project. Everything was in its place. And that's when it hit me once again that Gramps would not start another project. With a new wave of sadness, I walked back upstairs.
Now it just so happens that I have always been moved and intrigued by John 17, the chapter in the Bible where Jesus prays what is known as the High Priestly Prayer. One part in particular that always touched me was verse 20. After asking the Father to be with His disciples because His time on earth with them was nearing its end, Jesus continued with, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word". I remember reading that for the first time and being completely awed by the fact that Jesus had just prayed for me! Right there! It said He asked "also for those who will believe in me through their word"...this is the whole body of believers, every single Christian in every single age that was to follow (and every person who still has yet to believe in His name!). Wow! I always knew that the Bible says Jesus intercedes for us before the Father, but here right in front of me I could see and read the words...and I was included in His prayer!
This had been my main experience with John 17. Until, that is, the Lord led me to some words from Charles Spurgeon. If you've read anything I've written recently, you've probably realized that I've mentioned and quoted him several times. Well let me tell you, it's because the Holy Spirit gifted him with a gold mine! Seriously, I'm being blown away by the depth of insight the Lord gave to him, and the way he could put it into words! Anyway, I was reading one of the evening devotions from his book Morning and Evening. Spurgeon was reflecting on John 17:24. I was immediately intrigued! One of my favorite passages! Here is the verse Spurgeon had chosen: "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am".
Oh that sounds so beautiful, to be with Jesus where He is! But then one must consider just where Jesus is and how we get to be where He is. Well, He is in heaven, and we get there through death. Hhhmm, suddenly my favorite chapter was a little depressing. We don't usually like to think about death! We question (as is natural for us to do) why such excellent, faithful, righteous, devoted, even young, saints would be taken away from us. Spurgeon described our questions accurately: "Why do you snatch away the excellent of the earth...If you must use your axe, use it upon the trees that yield no fruit...But why will you chop down the best trees? Hold your axe, and spare the righteous." And yet, we all know that death finds the people most precious to us; including those who are the most generous and devoted. And why is that?! our hearts cry out.
Well, thankfully, the Lord gave Spurgeon beautiful insight into the death of those we love. He goes again to Jesus' request that those whom God has given Him would be with Him where He is. The fact is that "every time a believer moves from this earth to paradise, it is an answer to Christ's prayer." I had never thought of the death of a Christian like that! But how amazing, that Christ should actually request of the Father to have our loved one with Him. Is there a greater honor? Yet there is a sense in which we actually get into a "tug of war" in this area. We want our loved ones to be with us where we are! But Christ has prayed that they would be with Him. We must come to a point where we acknowledge that "the beloved one cannot be with Christ and with you too. Now, which of the two who plead shall win the day? If you had your choice...though it were agony, you would jump to your feet and say, 'Jesus, not my will, but Yours be done.'"
This is not to say that we should not pray (and pray fervently) for the healing and sparing of life for those we love. The point here is more about the beauty of the fact that death is actually the answer to a prayer already prayed - a prayer of Jesus requesting the presence of that one to be with Him. If we can truly wrap our minds around what Christ has prayed on behalf of the one we love, then we "would give up (our) prayer for (our) loved one's life".
Pray and pray fervently for those you love. Rejoice in those times when God sends healing. But when the time comes for the prayer of Jesus to be answered on their behalf, don't hold them too tightly in your hand. If you really had to choose...would you choose any different place for them? It's the peace of a believer to know that when their time comes, it is not an end; it is the answer to a prayer Jesus prayed for them, and the beginning of eternal life with Him. And so, with Spurgeon, even in those moments of sadness that crush us like nothing we&