Hope in the Face of Death
I grew up surrounded by my Grandfather’s bookshelves. Stacked high with the Romantics, Victorians, and Transcendentalists, myriads of voices lined up in rows, classics which birthed my love for the written word. Sitting beneath these towers of authors’ musings intensified all the world’s beauty. So it only felt right that I read a sonnet from his treasure trove at my Grandfather’s graveside service.
Looking back, it wasn’t so much a reading as a declaration of my animosity with death.
I was in the anger stage of grief, because I felt like life had been stolen, his body had been taken; the gentle father-figure who had always, always offered security could no longer provide sanctuary. I was furious with Satan and his destruction, with Adam and Eve and their thirst to be like God, and at the sin present in my own self. Why must the wages of sin be death? How could we fail so fatally that death and disease had enough cunning to rob the earth of someone as true as he?
That day, I hated death, so John Donne’s poem Death Be Not Proud offered words to my lament. I read through stanzas that threatened to choke me, and my pulse danced with the rhyme scheme as tears fell. Through gritted teeth I hit the last line and with ardent finality the conclusion left my cracking lips:
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Then I glared a fiery stare into the sky. My gaze to the clouds a silent prayer for strength as I longed for the day death would meet its end. I knew it would come, but standing with feet in dirt that would offer my grandfather his final earthly covering I held tighter for it was that truth that kept me standing.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
There is an absence of the glamour that some try to attach to the profusion of death. The circle of life taunts a dejected world that resigns to the idea that the final act for a living soul is simply to find oneself as fertilizer. In a world where diseases sneak in unwelcomed, violence invades places designed to teach, and rumors of wars accost the daily newsfeed, it leaves little room to wonder why some have forsaken the longings for something more.
In the face of death’s menacing uncertainty there is only one place to find hope. I may want to wage war on death; I cannot be so foolish to think I could conquer such a formidable foe. But I know the one who has. And for that reason I have hope when a child in my own womb does not grow to live, when the next “too young” happens, and when the darkness in the world seeks to snuff out the light. I have hope because I know my redeemer lives.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)
I will declare the truth that the sting of death is relieved by one thing and one thing alone: Jesus
He who faced death for the joy set before him. He endured the shame of walking upon the ground of a fallen world, having his perfect character called into question, and the gory torture that was the cross all so those He loved, those who call Him Savior, could be rescued from the horrors of Hell. Will we be reconciled to the Holy God that made a way for us to find the perfect home when death comes knocking?
“Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.”—Emily Dickinson
Immortality awaits each soul and the choices are the found or the lost. As I mustered up all my weakened stability to fight against the palatable grief at my grandfather’s graveside, I rejoiced in the fact that he was found.
My grief found comfort because he was found; my soul knows hope because I share that carriage.
The wasting away of this body is part of my weak humanity but when death stops for me, it shall not be proud. This life has been redeemed through Christ and will go on. That day will not come late, nor early, for my homecoming is surely designed by God. The day my body dies is when death meets its end in me and I will rise victoriously.
Chara Donahue loves to talk to women about Jesus, motherhood, and discovering the abundant life. She has four kids, a brawny husband, and is a writer/speaker/biblical counselor when life allows. She has written for Christianity Today’s Women Leaders, The Huffington Post, iBelieve, and is working on her first book. She has an MSEd from Corban University and is the founder of Anchored Voices.