A friend of mine died recently. He was a member of our church and sang on the worship team. I didn’t know him all that well, however I had served with him on the worship team so I knew him a little.
I found out last weekend at church that he had died. We – the congregation – were informed of his death partway through the service. As the service moved on, a number of us were left a little moist around the eyes.
This man had been ill on-and-off for some time however it was still a shock to hear of his death. The announcement came as a surprise. I was expecting something more along the lines of “He’s had some complications, can we please pray for him as a church right now?” or even “He’s been completely healed of his illness, praise God!” But death?
I must confess I had mixed feelings in response to this man’s death. As the shock subsided I felt the sadness of losing a member of our congregation. I felt a sense of peace knowing that he was assuredly in heaven with God. I felt hopeful that God would be glorified in some way at this man’s funeral.
I also had some worries and doubts. This man had suffered with significant illness. Was that now meaningless? What was God’s purpose in all his suffering? What about his worship ministry – what kind of legacy would be left behind?
It was not until near the end of the service that I experienced my strongest reaction. We stood to worship God after the sermon, and the second song was the well-known “In Christ Alone”. The congregation seemed to be singing quite enthusiastically and we crescendoed into the final verse:
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand.
© 2001 Keith Getty, Stuart Townsend.
I experienced a kind of exhilaration as we sang those immortal words: “No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand.” I was reminded then of the certainty of God’s purposes in our lives, no matter if we understand them or not.
This man suffered and he is now with God. None of his sufferings were able to pluck him out of God’s hand. He now has his reward: eternity with Christ. For one who loves Jesus, there is no higher prize in this world or imagination.
It is a beautiful reminder to those of us who remain on earth. Nothing that we endure in this lifetime – loneliness, hardship, even death – can remove us from the sure grasp of God. There is beauty to be found in that, perhaps even more so when we do not understand God’s purposes.
For those of us who hope in Christ, there need be no fear of suffering. Indeed, the worst possible suffering might result in death, and this is the best possible outcome for Christians. Any sense of fear and doubt has been subsumed by hope and longing for home.