Death is all around us: in the news, television, movies, and the internet. Sometimes we can become numb to the fact that strangers pass away every day. But, how often are we confronted with death in our own personal life? When someone close to us faces death, we become aware of the harsh reality that it is real and devastating.
A close friend of my family is currently battling with cancer. The effect it has had on their body is painfully evident. Trips in and out of the hospital, chemo therapy and radiation treatments, a low immune system susceptible to other illnesses; these are all realities to a person who is fighting for their life.
The one question on this person’s mind is, “Why me?” Sure, logically one could look at their lifestyle and deduce that smoking for over 30 years contributed to the cancer. But, this person isn’t thinking with logic; they’re thinking with their heart. And rightfully so. Their life is on the edge of ending and they’re scared. They want to live. How do we encourage a person in these circumstances? Is there any hope?
In 1873, there was a man named Horatio Spafford. Residents of Chicago, he and his family decided to take a vacation to England to visit some close friends. Horatio, a lawyer, was delayed because of business and urged his wife and four daughters to go on ahead of him. Their steamship, the Ville de Havre, was struck by another ship and sank. Horatio’s four daughters, Annie, Margret Lee, Elizabeth, and Tanetta, all died in the shipwreck, as well as 226 other people. His wife, Anna, survived. In his grief, Horatio wrote the hymn, “It is Well with My Soul”:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
The emotion can be felt in the poignant song. Its powerful message has brought hope to many people: “No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life. Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.” How can a man who lost all of his children write such a song with a positive outlook? The answer is simple enough, yet hard to understand for those who haven’t experienced what he experienced. He trusted God. Regardless of the reason that the tragedy happened, Horatio Spafford trusted that God was still King and He would give him peace.
When loved ones are facing death, empathy and compassion is usually all we can offer. Grief and mourning are two of the strongest emotions a human can feel and shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, there is hope for a brighter day. There is hope to pick up the pieces and start anew.
Where are you in my broken heart?
Everything seems to fall apart
Everything feels rusted over
Tell me that you’re there
I know that there’s a meaning to it all
A little resurrection every time I fall.
– “Vice Verses” by Switchfoot
That’s all that we can hope for. Resurrection for when we fall. Peace for when we are in turmoil. Rest for when we are restless. And, ultimately, life after death.
[Jesus said,] “I am the resurrection and the life;
He who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”
– John 11:25