Watching Death Approach

deathFor two days my focus has been with Dad Catalano (my father in law) as his body is failing.  The strong hands that could take some pine boards and make a beautiful table lie folded, occasionally feebly moving in slow waves. Mostly quiet, there are moments when he mutters unintelligibly though I smiled when advised me, clearly and out of nowhere, to ‘Buy a Maytag. They last forever.’  His pastor visited yesterday and we sang, “Blessed Assurance” at Dad’s bedside. My heart broke in that moment.

Mostly, I think of eternity as I wait and watch. What drama is swirling in the spiritual realms around us? Do angels stand guard to take him home? Surely the Presence of the Spirit is near, that much I know. As Dad travels through the valley of the shadow of death we are assured that the Lord is with him.

The Psalm teaches us to sing thus. “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.” (Psalm 116:1-6, NIV)  And then this line – “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15, NIV)

Death can be a time of ultimate abandonment, when the sheer terror of it, the irresistible pull of the living into the chasm of death, causes people to turn away from the dying, to shrink into a protective shell. But not for those who walk with God. He is not put off by the ugliness of death, He cares and engages and loves even in that moment. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”  Yes, as ugly as death looks from our side of the doorway to eternity, for our loving Father it is a treasured moment when He readies us to know Him fully, to enjoy His Presence in ways that defy our imagination. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

This is yet another reason to live near to the heart of God, as one of His treasured possessions. We are made His children by His grace gift, our forgiveness and reconciliation secured by the promise of Jesus who died that we might live. Sainthood is a daily way of life. Do not be misled to think it is only the hope of a few super-Christians.  You and I are called to be saints! Paul tells us that we are “loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7, NIV) That means we find our purpose in loving Him, choose to obey the Spirit’s direction, and make our day to day choices guided by the Holy Spirit.  Max Lucado asks this:  “If today were your last, would you do what you’re doing? Or would you love more, give more, forgive more? Then do so! Forgive and give as if it were your last opportunity. Love like there’s no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love again.”

In this, we are saints. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

The process of death is hard, ugly, ripping away that person we love. But, in Christ and His salvation we can live in great hope. This grand declaration is our word from the Word.  Hear it and live ready to be welcomed home, a saint. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-58, NIV)

__________

Blessed Assurance

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation purchase of God
Born of His Spirit washed in His blood

 Perfect submission perfect delight
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy whispers of love

Perfect submission all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest
Watching and waiting looking above
Filled with His goodness lost in His love

This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Fanny Jane Crosby
© Words: Public Domain

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