In light of recent events, there has been a stirring in my spirit to share some weight-bearing encouragement to my fellow classmates. I wanted something more than a well-meaning pat on the back to express my desire for all to see through the haze of shock and disbelief that only death can bring.
The greatest minds in the history of mankind have pored over the topic of death again and again, yet the curiosity it demands has yet to be stated. For if one claims a theologian is “beating a dead horse” when pondering death’s mystery, they are shouting against a black wall; the horse was dead to begin with, and we have been talking about it ever since.
I can only hope to contribute to the myriad of messages already spoken, aimed directly at the core of the issue, “Why?”
At the age of four, I witnessed my first funeral. I remember bits and pieces. My great grandfather lay in a dark coffin with red fabric lining the inside. I was both amused and befuddled at the sight. I turned to my dad and asked him simply, “Why is he sleeping in that box?” Death appeared to me a harmless, peaceful sleep.
My naïve mind could not wrap its fingers around what I was witnessing, and through that young lens, I believe I saw death more truly in that moment than I ever would in my life. At the age of 11, that same lens shattered before me. Soon after losing his father to a battle with cancer, I asked my best friend Jason to come spend the night at my house.
Jason was one of the few people on this earth whom I could trust with anything. His love for the Lord shone into others, whether you wanted to see its radiance or not. His mother had packed him his favorite food, her meatloaf, to bring to our house. We had a great night of video games and chatting about girls, as was the custom.
There were plans the following morning to go swimming at the pool down the street. At 5:00 a.m., I woke up. I glanced across the room at Jason, only to find that he was no longer breathing. After a hurried rush to my parents’ room, failed attempts at resuscitation, and an ambulance ride to the hospital, Jason was pronounced dead with no concrete reason as to why it happened.
From that moment onward, I began questioning everything I held true in my heart. My soul ached, especially for his widowed mother, who had just lost her only son. I wanted a reason to rest my fears on. I longed for the knowledge of some divine purpose to erase my ferocious doubt.
I shouted at God, and I shouted at the devil. Satan promptly handed me a long list of why Jason left us. For the sake of the trees, that list can be boiled down to one, concise lie: The presence of anguish equals the absence of God. It is a mind-numbingly preposterous equation when one thinks about it.
It assumes that since one suffers greatly from an outside force, the remedy to his or her problem must not exist–especially if it takes effort on our part to find.
Using that logic, I might as well say that since I am bedridden and sick, the medicine I need must not exist since I am unable to see it from my bed. It would take me five long years of counseling, prayer from my incredibly Christ-like grandparents, and questioning before I finally took that list and burned it. Beneath the ashes of those lies, I found the one truth God had prepared for me all the while: the honey bee.
It is anti-climactic at a glance, is it not? I know, it sounds insanely farfetched; yet, God uses simple things to confound even the wisest men. However, the honeybee did not give me the divine reason for Jason’s death that I desired.
It gave me something far better. It gave me back the lens that had shattered before me.
As a child, I feared bees. I loathed them. I wished them all dead, and whenever one came near, I would run as far as my legs could take me. One day, I learned a freeing truth when I fearfully received a bee’s dreaded sting on the playground of Bowmar Magnet Elementary: once it stung me, the joke was on it.
Once that bee enacted its deed of anger, its entrails were pulled from its body, mortally wounding it. A few minutes later, I would be no different than I was before the horrid thing decided I was its enemy. The parallel that can be drawn to the Cross, to me, is fascinating.
Jesus, once and for all, took the sting of death. Through His death and resurrection, Death itself was mortally wounded, and through this lens, I am able to see death for what it truly is: a stingless, harmless honeybee.
Such a view erased the need for God to explain a specific reason for Jason’s death.
Christ’s victory over death and hell is so freeing in its finality! Once one truly sees death through the eyes of the victor, Jesus Christ, all questions and doubts have no choice but to bow their heads before He who is triumphant! That perspective trumps our sorrowful musings.
He is the reason for our radical hope in a dank and dim world.
He is the reason we can live out James 1:2-4: “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
So you see, the cross allows for two radically different entities to cohabitate: Death and Jubilance.
– Hunter Lynch, Contributing Writer