In every death that we experience, be it the death of a loved one which is huge for us or the death of some desire of our own which may just be a turn in the path we are on, there is a new life awaiting us on the other side of each death. Like Jesus’s horrendous death on the cross, He suffered, He died and three days later He was reborn. His death signals that our lives are not going to be without pain and suffering, but there is always the promise of a new life on the other side of each “death” that we go through. I know this from my own life, especially from the lymphoma that my husband had that came back three months after he had been declared cancer free. It was the cause of his death just 2 and ½ months later.
It was the first week in December, 2000, that his cancer landed him in the hospital, ten months after his initial illness. I was totally done in by this turn of events. By three o’clock in the afternoons that week, I would be wishing that I could go to bed, pull the covers over my head and just forget this horror in our lives. He was sixty years old, way too young to die. The Lord spoke to me in the midst of my sorrow: “If I can just hold all possible outcomes equally, well, then…” Several times before in my life I had heard His voice loud and clear in my mind—He was offering me lifechanging ways of thinking. So, when I heard this, I worked to accept what He was saying. It took me a couple of days before I surrendered to what He said, but when I did, I realized that in any situation there lots of outcomes; that I didn’t need to focus only on Hank dying. So, I was able to relax. And then a day or two later, I was given a gift of faith that felt like I was standing on the rock that Jesus talked about. From then on until Hank died—two and a half months later—I was able to support him, our adult kids, and our friends through this passage. And I felt totally supported and loved throughout this time.
Even when we called in hospice care, I still felt that his death wasn’t the only possible outcome. I was still holding all the outcomes equally. Ten days later when the night nurse called us in at 4 a.m. to say that it was time, my two adult children, one’s spouse, and I were at his side when he died. The memorial service was that weekend. After that, I dropped into the grief, but I never was angry that he died or blamed God for all of this. He was gone—that was the sum of my experience.
In the aftermath of his death, two streams of change in my life came to me. First, I made two trips to Haiti and to Mexico which started a 20-year journey in learning how to bring people who were not as privileged as I was into my life and love. The second change began as I felt called to learn Spanish. After a year, my tutor assigned me to write a paragraph in Spanish each week. By the time I moved to Charlotte NC in 2008, I was starting to post a bi-lingual blog on my website. Nine months later my tutor who was my Spanish editor fell and couldn’t work, so I dropped the Spanish version. Now, in 2022, I have been a blogger for fourteen years and an author for seven with four books written. The lens I use as I write is that of a spiritual director: how do I, how do we, live this life in Christ. This new life was already in God’s mind before Hank got sick and died.
For every circumstance that I have lived through, whether a major problem or a minor one, there has been a new life on the other side of it. It’s been the most amazing thing about my journey following Jesus. Everything I have learned has come from facing the challenges, surrendering to them, and seeing where they would take me. I am grateful for every single challenge in my life because of what they have taught me about myself and my life. It’s been an amazing journey all along! Thanks be to God!
Jesus’s death on the cross and His resurrection is all about His life and death, but it also conveys to us that our lives are also filled with death and resurrection. It’s all in how we respond to these “deaths” that shows how dedicated we are to His example of how to live. Let us choose to surrender to these deaths as He surrendered to His. Let us look to Paul and all that He went through in order to accept our own challenges. For we are destined for the new life that each death brings us. Amen!
Questions to ponder over the week: What deaths have I experience in my life? And what new life have they brought to me after a time? Am I grateful for these deaths or resentful of them? How would I move to a more understanding response to them? Have I prayed about them, asking God to help me to adapt to them?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who experience different kinds of deaths with the purpose of learning from them, of growing into the truth that they offer me. May we accept all that happens to us in this life as purposeful for us and driven by God who has our best interest at heart.
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- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.