People don’t like death.
Some persons, for whatever reason, try to make it appear like death is a little fondling of theirs in whom they find great pleasure and delight; but strap a ticking bomb to the chest of such a one or point a gun to their heads and watch a most fascinating transformation. Even those who choose to take their lives are not likely to be moved to make that choice simply because they think it’s fun and exhilarating. The reasons behind such sad endings are wide and varied; they can range from deep, intense, misery laced delusions, to the misconception that death equals freedom from this reality and all the things that are wrong with it.
The bottom line is, as regards those we cherish; there would be more people alive than dead if we could help it.
Recently, I experienced the loss of a loved one. In fact, I’ve experienced the losses of quite a number of loved ones this year alone, but the most recent was that of a male toddler whom I had grown exceedingly fond of. His name was Babangida.
Out of the indigo, Babangida’s health began deteriorating. First it was this cough that never found cessation and I just thought – quite irritated – that he had finally hurt himself severely by reason of all the screaming he did when he threw tantrums. But then I turn away for a few days and by the time I turn back, there’s stooling and throwing up and a plethora of other unpleasants that have come along to join the cough. It’s not as though there were no factors that could easily be tagged the likely culprits in the situation – there were more than enough to be totally honest – but as this is not the focus of this post, I’ll be skipping the ‘this might have been prevented if only…’s. Regrets are valueless. Anyway, his health declined at the speed of shock and I was all over the place trying to figure out what form of assistance I could offer, beyond the nutritional and intercessory. Certain persons had been really helpful and supportive but at one point, I had a conversation with one that spiraled out of whack and left me with predictions of certain death and enough discouragement to leave me depressed. I decided then that I wasn’t talking to anyone else but God – and a doctor I’d gotten in touch with who is of the faith – about the issue again. My prayer then was simply:
Lord, I ask that Babangida be wholly and totally distanced from the clutches of death, and that his health be perfectly restored unto him in full measure.
I watched his mother struggle and resent her helpless observance of her child’s pain and suffering. I wanted the miracle for her, more than anything. I was thinking; Lord, should this child should just bounce back to the noisy chubbykins we all know, there’d be no convincing this woman otherwise – she would instantly believe in You. Right? That was the major issue for me – I wanted him healed because I believed that would be a plain enough expression of the power and love of the Lord and everyone would put their faith in Jesus Christ – case closed. So when he died, you can imagine my disappointment.
When people leave, they each have bigger fish to fry on the other side (and the fish can either be a unfathomably delightful or filled with enough poison to melt ones tongue off) so it’s a fantasy to think they still spend pockets of eternity searching us out from their spots in heaven…or hell – as the case may be. But although their concerns about this universe automatically cease, those who remain are the ones stuck with the wishes, hurt feelings, nostalgia and all that. Whether the person left painfully or peacefully, what is the point now is that they’re gone, so staying miserable about how or when they left has little effect beyond making what’s left of our days more tedious than they previously had the potential to be. I know this, but yet I indulged in more grieving than I would normally have not just because I felt a deep pity for his mother, but because I had my hopes way up there.
And hope deferred maketh the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12a).
I kept thinking, where did I get it wrong? There was nothing I hadn’t done to strengthen my faith; I’d kept my confessions straight, I’d stopped asking and just continued to praise in appreciation of the miracle I had already seen in my mind’s eye and still…still he dies?
There weren’t many ‘why God?’s because I know better than to think God killed him. He didn’t – with or without the factors contributing to his ailment I knew this. But He permitted him to leave, which was the opposite of what I asked (or so I’d thought) and I just wanted to know where I went wrong. I really wanted to know that.
So where do you head when you have questions the world would hardly fully comprehend, talk less of accurately answer?
The Bible. Here is what was ministered to me:
- God is No Traitor. Psalms 48:14 (KJV) – “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”
God’s loyalty is not as unstable as our emotions. He doesn’t stop being my God – the One gracious enough to initiate the love action now on-going between us, while I’d yet scorned it – just because things didn’t go the way I’d have liked or because I got silence when I sought a parted sky and an audible voice from the heavens.
God is my God forever…He will guide me even unto death.
You can’t guide someone you’re far away from. Which tells me that even at the times I feel steeped in cluelessness and overwhelmed by unanswered questions, even when there’s tightness in my chest and the circumstances are just chaos, He’s waiting right there to guide my soul back to the rest He and He alone embodies. His loyalty is unshaking, His nature more constant than the rising of the sun each day. From the day I began to the moment I depart from this mortal existence to the eternal, He’s been and continues guiding me. Patiently. Lovingly…
God does not betray me.
- We are Precious. Psalms 116:15 (KJV) – “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
No one needed to tell me that Babangida had gone to be with Jesus. I didn’t for once wonder about this. The point is I didn’t want him to go. I had built weighty expectations around him getting to stay so his departure began to feel like a ‘lost’ opportunity, in that I felt the witness of a practically dead child turning dramatically to a bubbly spritely one again was dramatic enough to crush the most concrete doubts. That thought line was actually neither here nor there though because even in biblical times, there were those who witnessed miracle after miracle and yet stayed in their unbelief, but receiving this reminder gave me a much-needed emotional shake – right when I’d begun to feel like I was the only one who cared.
Sometimes it is tempting to look at situations around us and entreat God concerning them, with this mental image of Him low-key enjoying or being indifferent about the problems that humanity faces. The attitude is almost one of:
“Lord, we know you don’t really care – this may not be such a big deal to you because it isn’t your grandma/son/job/business/health attack/heartbreak/rebellious teenager/exasperating boss/scandal//addiction problem…etc. But this thing means so much to me and if I could fix it myself I would – but I can’t. So, would you mind looking over here for a second and throwing in a little help, please?”
Then we’d probably insert an eye roll at the end of that, for good measure.
Like it or not, that’s an attitude that often threads our interactions with and approach to God. And it absolutely sucks!
Hebrews 11:6 says we need to approach God in faith; that anyone who comes to Him must first believe that He is and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Now there are a lot of clauses here and prerequisites but what is the one leading the pack? Believing. Believing what now? That God is. What is God anyway? Good, infallible, just, righteous, true, strong, matchless, kind, patient, long suffering, forgiving, sufficient, full of mercy, all knowing, ever-present, ever sure, full of grace, love personified, the beginning, the end…
If I don’t believe that God is who He says He is, then I cannot believe Him when He says I’m precious. If I don’t believe He values me and is interested in the things that happen to my heart, or me, then there’s no point to any of this. I might as well drown in my misery.
- His Victory is Our Comfort. Isaiah 25:8 (KJV) – “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces…”
Death is pretty skilled at disguising. It can look tough and unyielding enough to fool countless into believing it is undefeatable and impossible to be freed from subjection to. But that’s not what this verse tells us. Death has been swallowed up in victory – by yours truly, God. You don’t swallow something that’s too big and tough and frightening. No, you do that for jawbreakers or small morsels of well-cooked food. That’s what death is – small and defeated by the God who is the very opposite. If one has an understanding of this, death will be taken down from the pedestal its been given in so many lives and homes. Sure it can deprive us of people’s company and tangible connections with those we love, but it can NEVER truly take a person once that person is freed from its eternal clutches, covered in Christ’s redemptive blood. With such folk, death is just a tool for transportation.
- God Prefers Us Alive. Ezekiel 18.32 (KJV) – “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”
I almost added an exclamation mark to the end of that verse because it read like such a forceful plea slash assuring instruction in my heart. God is no sadist. They lied. He’s not sitting somewhere with a box of pop corn going “Oooh” and “Aaaah” when calamity befalls people – even the people we biased humans are quick to affirm are deserving of calamity rain. God takes no pleasure in people’s demise and destruction. It is not His will that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) so we need to also junk some of that religious jargon too, because there are many beautiful things that God wills for His creation, that never get to be because the said creation have mastered the despicable art of rebellion. You want to know what God wills? “That ye may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10) – both in this realm and in the one unseen. But we shouldn’t be latching onto the pseudo and scoffing at the original because what’s the point in valuing someone’s extended existence on earth if they’re already dead in the realm of the eternal? God is not tickled when we suffer needlessly and perish for lack of knowledge and mourn as those without hope (Proverbs 10:3/Hosea 4:6/Matthew 5:4 & John 16:20). If you die in Christ, it’s all swell because to live is Christ and to die is gain. But Jesus is the only one who was born primarily to die. The rest of us have specific tasks to fulfill before our glorious reunion beyond the skies.
God wants you alive.
- Not All Sicknesses Are Unto Death. John 11:04 (KJV) – “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”
Prior to Babangida’s passing, this verse was the go-to for a reassuring reminder for my soul. I repeated to myself that Babangida wouldn’t die so his life would bring glory to Jesus. But when I got back to it later, the one question that jumped at me was: If one sickness isn’t unto death, which one is? I couldn’t figure out if Jesus was also hinting with that statement that some illnesses will undoubtedly result in death but others will not and then bring God glory, but as I meditated upon it I found so many clarifying meanings.
For starters, Lazarus (of whom he’d been speaking) still died, but Jesus raised Him from the dead. So why did he say it wouldn’t lead to death if Lazarus still died?
Another thing is, which of the meanings or forms of death are being inferred in that verse’s context? Because this is Jesus after all, and to Him (and all who have received truth and understanding), the only death that is really death is that of eternal separation from God (reference Adam and Eve and the consequence of eating of the tree…). The laying to rest of our earth suits is not the big deal – it’s the spirit man who either gets life or death eternal.
The lord doesn’t glory in losing the souls of the creations He considers precious and dear to Him. That would not be consistent. So if the sickness is not unto death but that Christ may be glorified, then it is likely this refers to eternal death and separation from God – because when we physically leave this earth to step into our inheritance promised and prepared beforehand by Christ, it is to God’s glory. Those born of and yielded to Him are a living sacrifice – holy and acceptable. So physical departure would mean an eternal communion with Him and He would glory in that because it is His will and good pleasure for us to reign with Him. Any ‘sickness’ therefore that can take one to an eternal damnation, is a sickness unto death and will not glorify God. And the only ‘sickness’ capable of that, is called sin.
So yay me, Babangida was a baby. His illness wasn’t unto death.
After being flooded with revelation from these verses, I’d already fully recovered and my tears had found a stop. God restored my joy – whilst rebuking me for indulging for far too long in feels and replaying James Arthur’s tear-gate opening ‘Safe Inside’ 150 times – and I repented and thanked Him for helping Rashida heal and not fall into misery and bitterness. She even started comforting me! But the pleasant end to this story was summarized when I was going through my prayer journal and writing out reasons to be thankful for the past week some days later. I spotted the prayer I had earlier jotted down for Babangida…
In that moment, it occurred to me that that God had actually accurately answered.
And I was glad. Very very glad.
Dedicated to everyone dealing with a loss and going through grief.
(Be encouraged. God is yet good and ever mindful of you.)