Several months back a man from my church passed away. He was thirty-three years old. He had a beautiful wife, a four-year-old daughter, and a two-year-old son. For seven years, he constantly fought a rare, incurable form of sarcoma known as DSRCT, which eventually spread throughout his entire body. He would often update us on Sunday mornings on how various treatments were going, and he became our church’s most frequent and longed-for prayer request. It is not often that someone knows that they only have a few more weeks on this earth with their kids and their wife, but this was the situation that he found himself in. I am not going to pretend that I knew him or his family well; in fact I am not sure that I ever did more than introduce myself. However, from a distance, like so many others, I saw the process of his body weakening.
At the funeral I was proud to be a part of our small, yet well represented church family. We all sat together in about six rows, and our pastor performed the funeral. I felt a unity in our church body that I had not experienced before. His brothers shared many funny memories and stories that showed the strong character and uncommon faith of this man. Then they showed a video that was made before he passed.
He started the video by saying, “The Lord has been so good to us on this journey.” Even this statement gives a window into his faith that was unwavering even when he knew what was ahead of him. He discussed the joy that his children and wife were to him and also his fear that his young kids might not remember him. He relayed a story of him rocking his daughter right after she was first born and processing that he might not be around for her to know that he loves her. He would say over and over, “I always want you to know and I never want you to forget how much I love you.”
He claimed that never had he heard God so clearly speak to him as he did in this situation. He heard God say, “I always want you to know and I never want to forget how much I love you” back to him. He experienced God in such a clear way. God had not promised him healing or put that on his heart, but God had always promised that he loves him. He said, “In a way, healing is not what I want most; knowing that my father loves me is what I want most.” The psalmist says, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” (63:3). This man was able to say that he knew this to be true. He knew that to die and experience all of Christ and all of His love would be better than to stay on this earth and live out his life with his young family.
I don’t think I have ever been so encouraged in my faith than by his story and by observing God fulfill his plan through his life. I cannot even comprehend this amount of faith at this point in my walk with Christ, but I know that these are the situations and stories where passages like “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” become more than just words. This is where there can be no more passive, cultural Christianity. This is where you have to decide: Do I truly believe this to be true–that nothing this world has to offer can be better than experiencing the fullness of the Lord?
Even the best things of this man’s world–walking his daughter down the aisle, growing old with his wife, seeing his son mature in his own walk with Christ–none of it would be as good as eternal life with Christ. He believed this to be ultimate truth; he lived it out; and now he is in heaven experiencing the full glory of his savior with no more sickness, pain, or sorrow.
I hate typing that in one simple sentence, it’s so much more of a big deal that I think we like to admit. I think truly processing eternity with Christ is unnerving, confusing, and convicting. One day, if we have surrendered our life over to Christ, we will be in heaven experiencing the fullness of Christ. This is completely overwhelming and exciting, and frankly, I am not entirely sure of the best way to process this fact. Reflecting on the funeral, this hit me in an incredibly real way that I had never experienced before.