Today’s devotional reading says, “Life has been one long series of departures.” Besides leaving for vacations or taking trips for other reasons, I can count twenty-nine moves for myself and with family. Some were from one place to another in the same city, but some from one country to another. Leaving one home to establish another involves changes and adjustment besides the emotions of saying goodbye.
As a Christian, my thoughts about leaving this world are different than they once were. Now death is a change of place and state, not an end to life. It involves the negatives of saying goodbye to the familiar here, but the positive joy of being welcomed into my true home where endless life will swallow up all the sorrows and struggles of this one.
At Bible study last night, we talked about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our certainty that we too will rise from the dead. That is, because Jesus died and rose again, and because His life is my life, I know that I will depart from this place to live with Him forever. Yet I want to finish well before I leave.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6–8)
Paul also wanted to finish well. He had fought for the truth, kept his faith and looked forward to his rewards, knowing that all Christians have the same hope. He talked of death as a departure, a going away, an exodus.
In my many moves, those changes have not always been easy. Some were fraught with emotion. Some were physically difficult. The same is true for that last exodus.
We prayed last night for folks nearing this part of their journey and for those who are or will grieve. One man died in mid-life, too soon in our thinking. Another was murdered by political enemies leaving a confused and fearful family to mourn and wonder about their own safety. Another man has bone cancer eating his life span to a stub, and a woman’s life is threatened by a mysterious and unidentified ailment. Still another has blood cancer with no visible symptoms yet but it already gnaws at his soul.
The Bible says death is the final enemy, but it also says that Jesus conquered death and in that day when He returns, even the living will join them as all take that final move from this life to the next.
For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:53–57)
Some days I feel strongly drawn to this last relocation, but for the wrong reasons. Life is tiresome or difficult and I’d like that change and live where there will be no more tears or sorrow. Sometimes I am thinking of being with Jesus and my motives for moving are purer.
Other days, I think I am not ready to go. The smiles of my family, conversations with friends, even my to-do list gives me great delight. How can I say goodbye to the pleasures of this life? But the Bible promises that last move will be a true home-going. Even though it might involve a trip through shadows, darkness, toil, blood and tears, Jesus will hold my hand and I will find that my destination is “better than I’d hoped when I had hoped the most.”