I went to a funeral yesterday for the father of a friend. The idea was put forth that God’s mercy might have been at work in allowing this man’s death. To the unchurched world around us, the importance of life on earth is of paramount importance. We fear death and do everything possible to delay it. Evidence of this can be seen in the growth of fitness clubs and gym memberships, as well as the daily bombardment of television commercials for products that will treat this medical condition and graying hair, wrinkles, and other signs of aging. Our culture has become obsessed with youth and pleasure-seeking. (“Party hard and leave a good-looking corpse.”) I’m often perplexed that a culture that seems to put such a high premium on the value of life has no trouble ignoring the devastation of abortion, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and euthanasia.

As I mentioned in the last post, when we are confronted with the death of a newborn, a teenager, or even a man in his 40’s, as was the case at the funeral, people often seem focused on the things the deceased weren’t able to experience in life, such as first love, going to college, getting married, having children and grandchildren, etc. When I lost my son, I heard these sentiments from many people time and again. I think it may be instructive to consider the mercy of God in these cases when people die “before their time,” or at least before what we think should be their time. Instead of focusing my thoughts about the things Brad never got to do, I praised God for His mercy in sparing him from much of the pain of this life. He would never have to worry about losing his job, experience the heartbreak of broken relationships again, or worse. Who among us knows what trials God spares us from in His infinite mercy? The family at the funeral shared that their dear brother, (father, husband), was now released from the pain, anguish, and burdens of life when God called Him home.

The lesson for us is clear. Our true life is in relationship to God the Father through the sacrifice of His Son. Jesus said He came to bring us life to the fullest. The fact that my son never got to go to college, get married, or buy a house is insignificant in light of the fact that he went to be in the presence of God for eternity. Is anyone in heaven upset that they died before they got to see their team win a Superbowl? This doesn’t mean that we should de-value the life we live now. The joys and sorrows of life are vital to our experience and living “life to the fullest” starts now. Nonetheless, we would do well to remember the words of Hebrews 11 that we are “aliens and strangers on earth” who are “looking forward to a better country – a heavenly one.”