Death has a way of putting your time on earth into perspective. I recall the days following Mark's death were filled with thoughts of how hard it is to be in this world without him. A life without the person God created for me seemed grim. When Mark and I got married, we were made into one. I was now subjected to a life without half of my heart. At 29 I could look ahead and see how many years I would be experiencing loneliness. I am a generally healthy person, young and fit with no preexisting health conditions; barring anything unexpected I can be expected to live until at least 90. If I were to live until 90 that would mean I would have lived on earth for 61 years without Mark. 61 years is 12 times longer than we were married, and 2 times as long as my current lifetime. I walk through the cemetery and look at the years between the men and women buried next to one another, and none of them were as long as what I was looking down the barrel at. I tried to remind myself of what my friend Karisa said to me the night Mark died. She said "promise me this, that you won't look to far ahead, because imagining a lifetime without Mark is too big a burden to bear." She is right, it is too big a burden. So far, I know that I might be bearing the brunt of the burden, but I am surely not alone. God is with me, and the purpose for my life has not been thwarted. God created me, and He created me with the purpose of being in relationship with Him and serving Him.
When God created me He never promised me that my life on earth would be free of pain or suffering. He did promise to be with me in it, as long as I keep turning to Him. He has promised me that accepting Christ as my Savior means that I will have everlasting life, I will get the opportunity to live out eternity in Heaven. For that I am so grateful, grateful that God's grace is so unfathomable that it can cover all of my sins. I know that this is true for Mark as well, and I fully expect that he will be one of the faces greeting me when I make it to heaven someday. But, the promises of God are not limited to life after death! His promises and rewards begin now, here on earth. God has promised to provide me with peace, comfort, and strength. He assures me that if I seek Him, I will find Him. He promises me that when my heart is breaking He is there holding me. He promises to celebrate with me, to turn my mourning into dancing. Most of all, I know that even when I feel like I am alone, I never am. My God loves me despite my questioning, despite my fear, despite my sin.
This all means that while I am waiting for my time on earth to come to and end, or better yet for Christ to return and take His followers home; that I still must live. I need to live out my assurance in the promises of God. God has given me the purpose of serving Him, and the call of using my widowhood to share Christ with others. Every morning when I wake up I need to intentionally live! I can be eager to be with Christ without taking the joy out of life on earth.
Lamentations 3:19-26 reflects my story well. It is likely written by the prophet Jeremiah after the fall of Israel's city to the Babylonians. If you read the whole book you will find that it is recounting great pain and sorrow, the people feel hopeless. But Jeremiah recalls the faithfulness of God, and reclaims hope in Him. The last half of the passage below will sound familiar to many, but unless you read the verses preceding it the full picture is not seen. What greater affect the hope of God has when you see the turmoil they were living in. Just as in Lamentations, the trust I have in the Lord means so much more after pain, suffering and loss.
"19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."
Lamentations 3:19-26 NIV