When God Plans to Let Your Loved One Pass Away

My mom was 30 when I entered this world. I was 30 when she left it. Today is the anniversary of that day and it’s a hard one to be reminded of.
 
The picture above is one of the last times we enjoyed with mom before the symptoms of her sickness started. As happy as she is in this picture, it’s harrowing to realize all that was ahead for her. She was in a body that was about to start breaking down. And we had no idea our time left with her would be so short.
 
But in this moment, God knew all that was ahead. He knew the distress we were about live in seeing mom’s abilities deteriorate. He foresaw our desperate search for a diagnosis and then our traumatic defeat learning there was no cure. He knew our hearts were about to ache for years on end and that our faith would struggle to see still Him as good. 
 

In this moment, God also knew how He’d comfort every shard of our soul-piercing pain.

He knew what resources mom would need and how He’d provide them. The donations were already lined out. The caregivers were already handpicked. He knew which people He’d motivate to come visit and what friendships He’d renew when they were needed most.

For our family, He had already planned out how He’d equip our hearts to endure a marathon of grief. He saw what Scripture we’d need to read in our devotions and what sermons we’d need to hear from our pastors. He’d already prepared How He’d inspire us to pray and how He’d answer.

He had loving designed every tender memory we’d share with mom from this day forward and even scripted out her final moments with us, which ended up being more inspiring than Shakespeare.

He knew how He’d express His love and how we’d encounter His grace.

In this picture’s tiny moment, God not only knew how He’d get us through our upcoming suffering, He knew why He was going to allow it. We’ve experienced the former and we still wrestle with the latter.

We wish we had five more years of pictures like this one. We wonder how God, in His unmeasurable love, decided it was best to let this be our last untainted memory with mom. But just as God proved Himself faithful throughout mom’s sickness, we fully believe He has proved Himself good even though we don’t understand the entirety of His plan.

For now, I am grateful I can look back on 30 years of memories with mom. And although the last few years were more painful than pleasant, I’m so thankful they were full of evidence of God’s care and His lavish comfort.

Now today, in this tiny moment, whatever trials I have ahead of me, I’m confident God has His plans in place. And come what may, I trust those plans are good.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Until God Gets Here

Ho-Hum Hope

Have you forgotten how to hope?

No, seriously. Think back. When’s the last time you really hoped for something?

If you’re like me, today you probably hoped you’d wake up early. Then, when you didn’t, you hoped the kids would sleep in so you could grab some personal time. But the moment you finished hoping that, which was the same moment your toddler hobbled into the bedroom, you stopped hoping for anything because your brain got busy keeping little people alive and attending to the daily grind.

Our days are filled with many other optimisms of course – we hope the boss likes our latest project, we hope the traffic isn’t bad, we hope our sports team doesn’t choke, we hope the kids go to bed right away.

In that sense, maybe your day was full of hopes. But if that’s the extent of it, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that maybe your day was a little long, a little tiring, and at least a little lacking. It probably wasn’t all that you hoped your day would be.

That makes sense. Because to be honest, the things we typically hope for are pretty pitiful. In the grand scheme of things, if my most frequent hope is that I find time to watch Netflix, then it’s not all that surprising that my days feel a tad mundane.

Thankfully, my 4-year-old has given me another option.

On His Way

At a recent play date, one of our little friends decided to loan my daughter a Tinker Bell doll she saw Gracie playing with. So we took Tink home for a few days visit with the expressed purpose of returning her on our next get-together. It was a strange arrangement; but it was cute, so I went with it.

A day or two later, the little friend decided Tinker Bell could stay with Grace permanently. How sweet! When I told her the good news, Gracie beamed at me and then asked me the most precious question.

She didn’t ask, “Do I really get to keep this new doll forever?!”

She said, “Do I really get to keep Tinker Bell until God gets here?!

I just love moments like that. Moments when your child applies a truth you’ve taught them to a situation you didn’t realize it related to.

Just hearing her words drew me to praise God for that very fact – He’s going to get here one day! And what a way to remember that – my daughter’s statement held heavy emphasis on the hope attached to an insignificant toy, but it pointed me to the eternal joy I have waiting right beyond this world’s trinkets.

The saying has stuck and now both of my daughters use the phrase “until God gets here” whenever they are asking about the permanency of something. At least once or twice a day I hear, “Mama, will we get to go visit Grandma again before God gets here?” or “Mommy, will we move again or do we get to stay in this house until God gets here?”

Every time I hear the phrase I get a sudden, unprompted reminder of the hope I have ahead of me. I know the girls don’t realize the impact of what they’re saying, but the fact that Christ’s arrival is so matter-of-factly brought to my attention multiple times a day has really been having an affect on me… and making me realize what my days have been missing for most of my adult life.

Frequent False Hopes

I tend to hope in temporal things. I don’t typically hope in the eternal. My heart keeps forgetting that this routine isn’t forever. But as a Christian, the fact that my Savior is planning His return – any minute! – ought to fill my heart with at least a little nervous excitement, and more often than not – a whole lot of hope!

But it just… doesn’t.

This past week, my kiddos have taught me two things about my hope in God and in particular in Christ’s return – it’s impersonal and rare.

It’s impersonal because I think of it in textbook terms. “The 2nd coming of Christ” sounds more like a chapter in a heavy theology book rather than a sold out event I can’t believe I’m holding a ticket to. Sadly, I’ve studied Christ’s return far more than I have anticipated it.

And it’s rare because my hopes are crowded. If we’re being honest, over the last week I’ve longed more to see the 2nd season of Fixer Upper on Netflix than I have the second coming of Christ. And there are plenty of other trivial hopes that my heart is set on. They aren’t just distracting me from heavenly hopes; they are choking them out of existence.

Somehow I’ve come to admire the 2nd coming from afar forgetting that I’m involved in the event at all.

Something to Look Forward to

But according to the New Testament writers, my highest hopes are supposed to be fixed on the promised return of my Savior. Life’s little joys are well and good – but they ought to pale in comparison to the greatest gain of seeing Christ.

Here is just a sampling of the promises that ought to be more than enough motivation to get through our days:

  • Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28
  • For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
  • Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you don’t expect. Matthew 24:44
  • For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:27
  • When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:4
  • Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. John 14:1-3

The Bible frequently reminds us that if we set our hopes on Christ the grandeur of His promises are enough to cause rejoicing even as we look forward to their fulfillment.

We have a hope worth dwelling on and daydreaming about. The very anticipation of it makes our days worthwhile.

And the more we elevate this hope above all others, the better perspective we’ll have on the joys and disappointments of our lives. If we evaluate our daily ambitions in light of the fact that our Christ is on His way, then we’ll end each day with the same perspective – looking forward.

Don’t Forget to Hope

Don’t be discouraged if you realize today that you’ve lost hope. We are forgetful, selfish people consumed by whatever is right in front of us.

But tomorrow, put your hope in the ultimate, not the immediate. Fight to focus more on the promises of God than the mere short-term triumphs of this life.

The Christian who is full of hope is the one who keeps hearing it as often as he forgets it. For this forgetful believer, I’ve had 4-year-olds giving me daily reminders that “God’s going to get here” soon. But once they’ve outgrown this adorable catchphrase will I revert back to infrequent reminders or will I seek out daily revelations of my divine promise? Of course I know right where the words are waiting for me.

Let’s surround ourselves with the greatest hope we have. Let’s read it and savor it straight from the source. Let’s reiterate it to each other as frequently as possible. And let’s pray for the fervor that its astounding power merits.

Because the reality is, we won’t be here forever. Our struggles are temporary, our pain is short-lived. The mundane is fading, and the tedious fleeting. All of these things will only last until our Lord gets here.

And friend, God is going to get here. And it’ll be soon.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay…”

Hebrews 10:23, 35-37