“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (NASB)Isaiah 55:8-9
We don’t get used to people we love leaving this earth. The bereavement comes suddenly and the mourning is heavy. I remember when a man in our small church died suddenly around the same time my great uncle passed away. Both Joe and Chester were humble, quiet men with gentle demeanors who lived out their faith in Jesus. As I grieved their loss, I pictured them, standing on the brink of Heaven. I let my imagination wander to what they were now experiencing.
The awe and glory, far beyond what my mind could come up with, was not enough to keep doubt from entering my mind. Were they actually in Heaven right now? When my time is over here on earth, will I experience what my heart knew them to be experiencing? I was devoting my whole life for this one belief in Jesus–this one truth, is it real?
Working through that doubt prepared me for the deaths that laid ahead. Three years later, when word arrived that my former worship leader had died, leaving a young family behind–I knew death did not get the final word. Though I still have to leave the room when the song 10,000 Reasons is played, I know now, Jason truly lives.
My finite understanding, calls many deaths too early. I allow my thoughts to return back to that idea of what their view is now. I believe in a sovereign God, even when my thoughts think otherwise, I know He is the one who wrote their exact number of days. So I am willing to wrestle with the understanding and acceptance of the loss.
Our hope rests in that the “work” God planned for those that have gone before us is now completed, and they are living in the presence of Jesus. While we are all grieving the loss, we are comforted to know we will see them again someday. When questions come in our mourning and loneliness asking if it all really exists? We do not need to be ashamed. What we need to remember that yes, God really did say, Jesus is who he says he is, a mansion does await, and all of it is more than we can ask or imagine.
The recent loss of our pastor’s wife and mother to two teenagers stung. In my grief, I recalled a conversation we had recently had about books. I was asking her for suggestions for my young son when Frank Perretti’s name came up. She asked me if I had ever read Tilly. Since I hadn’t, she loaned it to me. I see God’s timing in it all now. The themes in Tilly surround forgiveness, freedom, and a visual portrayal of heaven’s beauty. I’ve clung to it through this fresh loss.
These four stories of God bringing some of his children home, the one thing that erases the doubt I face is the promise of Isaiah 55:8-9. I think sometimes we tend to think of God as our human minds understand Him to be. We forget that He is the one who created all things; He is the one who holds everything in the palm of His hand; He is the one who is who he says He is. Just because I sometimes wrestle with wrapping my mind around His goodness, I am reminded that His ways are not my ways and that my ways aren’t His. Praise be to God that He doesn’t depend on my feelings or lack of faith! He always keeps His promises, restores my faith, and helps my unbelief. And someday, because of what Christ has done, I too will be standing on that precipice and see what my book-loving friend, Jason, Joe, Uncle Chester, and others have already gotten to see, and all doubt will be erased.
Vivian Tomsdóttir has lived in California and Oregon most of her life, most recently moving from the bay area to the Willamette Valley with her family. She accepted Jesus early in life, but doubted her salvation on and off as a teenager before realizing that it was about what Jesus did and was doing in her life, not if she prayed the “right” words when she was in third grade. Since her kids are a little older now, she is thankful to have more time to bake, write and be in the garden, especially tending to her lavender.