A few days ago our nation witnessed the horrific, senseless murder of nearly 60 people, with hundreds more injured and hospitalized. One of my colleagues told me that a friend of his still hadn’t heard from his wife since the massacre. It’s incomprehensible and heartbreaking to think what family members, witnesses, responders, and medical personnel have had to endure. I’m sure that you, like me, have been continually voicing deep, anguished prayers on their behalf.

On Monday, as I was processing this awful event, my wife called to inform me that our friend Marc had unexpectedly passed away while working out earlier in the day. Stunned and shocked, I instantly ached for the loss of my friend and choked back tears at the thought of what Marc’s wife Sherri, their three wonderful children, family, and friends are enduring. Since hearing the news, I continue to lift up deep, anguished prayers for them.  Marc was the picture of health, and a devoted husband and father. Marc and I ran together and encouraged each other in the hallway of our church. We ran 5k’s together. He was a man who loved God and reflected it in his everyday life.  Like all people, I ask the question, “why?” It hurts even to try to make sense of death, other than to recognize that it is a cold, cruel, horrible villain that cares not if you are a rock star, concert goer, businessman, murderer, or saint.

God hates death. Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus, and the Bible is filled with stories of grief, including Abraham mourning and weeping over the death of his beloved wife Sarah (see Genesis 23:2). God weeps with us in the moments when loved ones are taken from our sight. Death never was a part of God’s original plan for humans. But we humans at some point made the horrible decision to try to be our own gods (a choice many of us continue to make today) rather than trusting in and living under the benevolent care and sovereignty of the One True God.  One of the tragic consequences of that fateful choice was that people became subject to the unrelenting beast we call death.

In the midst of this hopeless scenario comes hope: the Light that no darkness or death can douse. That hope has a name: Jesus Christ. He rose from the dead after suffering a cruel death on an ignominious cross— bearing the full, complete burden of our rebellion and sin in his perfect being so that we could experience new, fully restored relationship with the One True God. Jesus can never again be touched by death because He has already defeated it. He is the one true Son of God who came to redeem and save all people who look to him for forgiveness, salvation, new birth, and eternal life. One day he will return to earth, and God will put death away forever, thrown into an eternal place of fire (see Revelation 20:14). Death will never again touch the resurrected bodies of those who have said “yes” to Jesus Christ. I hold onto this promise even as I mourn the loss of our friend Marc.

As a person of faith, I believe and am putting my life on the belief that there is more to this life than just living and dying. Our earthly life is one grain of sand on the shore of eternity,  yet we spend so much of our time and energy focusing on the temporal stuff of life, and we put off dealing with the bigger questions of eternity and God. I suggest that one way we can honor Marc and others who have passed is to consider that we spend so much time on one square of our life on this planet that we forget to look at and invest in the coming and infinitely greater, eternal part of our existence. There are no guarantees on any of our lives, as the Bible states:

  “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Proverbs 27:1

Consider that maybe it’s time to take God off the back burner and make seeking Him the aim and desire of your life. It’s the ultimate search that can lead you to an amazing future with God, and a huge family reunion that will never end. Here’s a passage from the New Testament that brings hope in dark days of mourning:

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Someday we will be reunited with Marc and others who have gone before us in Christ . In the meantime I encourage you to:

•    Love and appreciate the gift of each day and the people God has put in our lives.
•    Live life with passion and thanks, not just for yourself but also for other people.
•    Pay attention to the inner thirst, and go after seeking God with all your heart.

As Augustine once wrote,

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

In the midst of grief, we can still acknowledge and seek God —even through tears—as we look forward to the day when every tear will be wiped dry, and we will be forever reunited with God and all those who love Him.

To our friend Marc: long may you run—with God.

God bless you!

Chris Atkins