We love because he first loved us. – 1 John 4:19
How I wonder about that far-off land! I wish I could catch a glimpse of it as Moses was allowed to catch a glimpse of the promised land. He led others to it but in the end, he was unable to enter into it with them. He could only view it from a distance.
I also feel very close to that promise land, as if I too have come to its border. I have led others through the long wilderness journey of cancer and have arrived at the border with them, but I am unable to cross over. It is not my time. I can only look on from a distance. I feel the authority of the Lord’s hand weighing down on my shoulder, both comforting and restricting me as I watch them go. They cross over and slip away with a last sigh. In a moment they are gone and all that was physical about them is left behind. Their bodies, appear as empty worn out shells, discarded and abandoned like a forgotten glove left behind. A mystery. A reminder.
We are now physically separated. No longer able to touch. No longer able to hold conversation together. No longer able to hear the other. No longer able to embrace. No longer able to see their smile outside of memory or hear them laugh. Even their scent slowly begins to fade from clothes and pillows. Their favorite spots remains empty now and no longer even acknowledges they had often frequented it. All trace of them vanishes and is gone except for mementos that silently speak only to the person who carries them.
Physically they are gone. Yet something new awakens, an awareness of their presence. A presence without form. A presence without words. A presence without sight. Physically we are separated unable to touch but spiritually in Christ there is yet life. We are still remotely connected. We are not completely severed but wait in anticipation of being reunited again. As I know my own spirit lives within my body unseen, I know their spirit lives without the body unseen and waits now even as I wait for this separation period to end.
One thing I have learned about grief is you only grieve those you love. When a friend of a friend dies, we may become somewhat saddened and express our condolences but we ourselves are not deeply grieved. We did not know them. We suffer no pains from their being separated from us or this world. However, when someone we know and love dies, our soul is ripped apart by the separation. A part of us is amputated and we struggle to maintain ourselves to survive daily. Inwardly we struggle in our spirits from our loss. We face extreme fatigue from being forced to carry the dead weight of our spirits sagging within us throughout our daily routines.
Death is the ultimate separation. The Bible speaks of our being spiritually dead and separated from God because of sin entering the world and into us. Spiritually we died and were separated from God Himself. The idea of being separated from God can hit us as factually as hearing that a friend of a friend of a friend has died. The truth causes us no grief for in our hearts. We feel nothing. We do not grieve for God for we never truly knew Him or loved Him.
However, God himself knows us and loves us deeply. He loved us before we first loved Him. God grieves us. He feels the weight of our loss and separation from Himself even if we do not grieve our loss of Him. Only the living grieve. God grieved the separation between us and Himself, between our spirits and His Spirit. He sent Jesus to end the spiritual separation to give us a spiritual life through the Holy Spirit for us to be reunited to Him and to come to know Him.
It is as we begin to truly know God that we begin to love Him and as we begin to love Him we begin to grieve our separation from Him. We become awakened and finally start to feel the pain of His absence from us physically. We want to see His face. We want to hear His voice. For once in our lives we begin to realize our magnificent loss. We begin to grieve God and our separation from Him and begin to look forward to heaven.
Grief reminds us of this great separation between God and ourselves, between heaven and earth that we must temporarily endure. Grief reminds us that we are living apart from someone, from someplace. It causes us to lift our eyes up to look beyond this world and to look in the distance for but a glimpse of the other. It awakens our curiosity of that far off land making it more and more familiar to us, as all our friends and family are slowly moving there one by one. Grief does test our faith. However, instead of destroying our faith, it can strengthen our faith and our relationship with God as we come to a new understanding of His own grief over the separation of sinners from Himself and the great love He has toward us that He would send his own son Jesus to build a bridge between us and Himself through the work of the cross.