Column: A bittersweet Christmas

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All right, I know Christmas is over, but this one has been tough. A friend of ours passed away on Christmas day. It was a day of laughter and joy in the morning as the kids opened presents, followed by tears in the afternoon. Then the age-old question always seems to reemerge…why? Why does life work this way?

After years of education I can honestly say I still don’t really know why. The more I learn the more I realize I am truly finite, limited and small. I have, however, observed these two things watching quite a few families struggle with death.

First, there is a big difference in how people grieve if they believe all that is and ever will be is in this material world as opposed to those who truly believe there is more. I use the word “truly” on purpose. There are many who call themselves Christian, but aren’t really followers of Jesus. The ones who truly, deeply believe often have less regret, incredible hope and cope much better with the passing of their loved one.

Second, relationships matter the most when life begins to slip away. I’ve never heard someone say, “I wish I would have bought more cars” or “I wish I would have opted for the iPhone 6 plus, instead of just the iPhone 6.” Material things are almost always minimized during the final stages of someone’s life. Relationships consume most conversations, either a desire to strengthen them or regret because they wish they would have given them more priority.

This Christmas may have been filled with tears, but it wasn’t really sad. The family had such a deep faith, and the father and husband who passed away worked so hard to live a life filled with Christ-like love, that honor and legacy seeped out of every story. Do I understand exactly why life has to work this way? No, I don’t. Do I fully believe that faith in Jesus can make an incredible difference in how life and even death is dealt with? Absolutely, yes.

Dr. John Piper says it like this. “There will be a serenity beneath the eye and care of God that surpasses anything we have known here on the softest summer evening by the most peaceful lake at our most happy moments.” That sounds mighty nice. I personally may not understand why life works this way, but I like the benefits of believing in the one who does.

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