Time is precious, don't waste it.
One year ago, I posted the words in the blog post below to my Facebook page. My father was suffering the final effects of multiple strokes, and he would only linger on this earth for about 5 weeks from this posting. This morning (03.16.2023), less than 1 year later, I took my precious mother to her first chemotherapy treatment. Her prognosis is encouraging, but it's cancer, and it weighs heavily on the mind.
Never underestimate life, because it can be menacing. When trouble comes, it can overwhelm you with a force that can stagger even the greatest of faith. It's so important to never lose sight of God's sovereignty over every situation, even the situations that stab violently at our heart. And, it's important to never lose sight of God's love. God loved my father, and He took him home. God loves my mother, and He's allowing her a new journey that promises some great difficulty along the way. However, there's opportunity in that journey to find new ways of trusting a God who knows the path that we must walk in order to enter into the beauty and perfection of His will.
While we walk through our journey, whether the road is flat or steep, whether the situation is joyous or heartbreaking, understand that the time we have with those dear to our heart is precious. God has allowed every moment for specific purposes, and we should embrace every moment with a passion. Once those moments pass, they cannot be retrieved.
Time is precious, my friends. Don't waste it.
My Facebook post from 03.16.2022...
Anne L. de Stael once said that, "We understand death only after it has placed its hand on someone we love."
I think that's true.
My father continues to do fairly well, and he has made some cognitive improvements over the past couple of days. The journey continues to be almost overwhelmingly hard at times, but my parents built our family on a very solid foundation of faith and trust in God. My father's great efforts at the aforementioned are culminating now in my own life, and everything that he has ever taught me about having a faithful trusting of God's plan is bearing fruit. As God continues to gently guide my father home, He is also proving, time and time again, that our hope and trust in Him is not misplaced. God is also showing me more and more about the great worth of my relationship with my earthly father, the wisdom in his words, the lessons of his actions and the priceless gift to our family that he continues to be—if only for a little while longer.
In over 20+ years of ministry, singing or playing at 100+ funerals, losing friends and family—through all of that, I don't think I've ever fully understood death. I don’t claim to completely understand it now, but I have a much deeper and more grounded understanding of it today, as God has brought it to our very doorstep. It's an unwanted visitor, but death will eventually demand entry into all of our lives. It's painful; it's horrific, and the process of watching a loved one die seems to drain every ounce of strength and emotion from your soul. It leaves you totally exposed, and, often, it will make you feel inconsolable. Watching death, when it finally arrives, requires an abundance of things you may find scarcely provisioned in your life. Be ready, although I find it hard to believe you can really be prepared. It’s harder than you might imagine.
No sermon prepares you for dealing with the death of a loved one, because no pastor has that kind of gifting. God's Word speaks of death and comfort, but simply reading Scripture alone will not bring peace. To understand death, and have a peace regarding the same, one must simply wade into it, much like you tolerate walking into a cold ocean, holding tightly to the hand of Jesus, as He guides you through a process that you don’t desire, don’t understand and one that causes for you a tremendous amount of grief and pain. It's a pain that can't be "preached" or "read" out of you; it's a pain that must be experienced to be understood. Moreover, we will most likely never understand the journey, and the pain will never fully depart our consciousness. Any words to the contrary are simple foolishness. But then there’s God…
As hard as this is proving to be, God continually shows up…
God shows up in short conversations with my father, conversations composed of very few words but literally drenched in an abundance of love. He shows up in a brief smile from my dad, as we reminisce about times gone by. He shows up where no words are spoken at all, and there is only the force applied by the clinching of his aged hand in mine. He shows up when that same aged hand refuses to let go of mine. He shows up as I listen intently to my father’s breathing in times of peaceful sleep. God shows up when my mother prays. He shows up when my wife prays. God is there, in the ever-abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, who comforts those who were previously inconsolable.
John 14:26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
This verse reminds me that God, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit in my father’s own life, used my earthly father to teach me about faithfully trusting the God he loved. My dad prepared me for this very journey throughout his entire life, by pouring his own faith into me and living out that very example. And here, today, God, though the Holy Spirit, reminds me of His promises through the spoken words of my dad in years gone by. It’s as if the Spirit of God sits beside me whispering peace into my mind daily, reminding me of my earthly father’s words—reminding me that those are the very words and the very promises of God. The Holy Spirit does this, and it’s beautiful.
An understanding of the death of a loved one cannot be taught. It can only be understood when Jesus, through the comforting of the Holy Spirit, stands beside you guiding you through it. I will tell you, it can be messy. Thankfully, God understands messy; He understands our grief and sorrow; He understands every pain; He allows grace for sleepless nights on a couch; He provides for us when mental exhaustion takes more than its fair share, and He is always beside us, through the presence of a Holy Spirit who never tires of holding the hand of a grieving son who, in many ways, already misses his dad.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!