The Sting of Death

While I was in California, an old friend of mine died suddenly. He was 42 years old with a beautiful young wife and four lovely children. I hadn’t had a conversation with him in several years – but he always held a special place in my heart. At one point in my life I had hoped that we would marry. My life would have been very different had that happened – my own three great kids wouldn’t exist and I very likely wouldn’t be doing the work I’m doing now. Though I couldn’t see it at the time, God had different but good plans for me. His wife and children have come to my mind and heart a lot since hearing the news. As I pray, I feel what I hope is consistent with what Jesus felt at the tomb of Lazarus recorded in John 11:33: “When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” The Greek word that is translated “deeply moved in spirit” in this verse is “embrimaomai,” which is a combination of two words, “en” meaning “in” and “brime” meaning “strength” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). The Greek word used for “troubled” in this verse is “tarasso,” and it means “to stir or agitate” (Strong’s Concordance). It’s important to clarify that Jesus wasn’t troubled in the sense that he was worried or perplexed; he had a holy rage toward death and its devastation. Jesus, of course, knew that he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead – but none-the-less – raged against the reality of death … “This isn’t how it was meant to be, this isn’t how it is supposed to be.” And when I think of my friend’s wife and young children left behind – something in my spirit rages. I have had an odd relationship with death through my life. I’ve shared before in this forum of my mother’s death when I was 18 months old. I’ve not known a day of my life when her death was not part of my reality. She was 25 years old when she died. So, when my older sister turned 25 I found myself holding my breath. And when I turned 25 I think I finally exhaled. Having turned the milestone 40 this year, it does not escape me that I have lived 15 years more than she did. In that sense, every day is a gift. I live with the awareness that death could happen at any time to anyone. (My mother died of an aggressive cancer that took her within three months of diagnosis.) My relationship with death isn’t particularly morbid …. But I did think about it probably more than most kids. It wasn’t a foreign concept, not something that just happened to people out there somewhere …. But it was something that was close to home, part of my everyday reality. The deaths that I have experienced during my life have caused a deep sense of loss. At the same time, having lived my life with the confident hope that someday I will meet and get to know the person my mother was, I want to laugh in the face of death and