Death’s Sting

d70s-longline-ll13-108542-hI’ve lived just long enough on this earth to have responded to death in most of the imaginable ways. The recent death of a former shipmate has brought many of those responses back to the forefront. I must deal with them, and so I write.

One way that I’ve never been able to respond to death is with joy. When people say, “They’re in a better place now,” I want to throw something. “Oh death, where is thy sting” trips me up every time I hear it. I feel stung by death, or the thought of death, often, and so I respond by glossing over the words. I recently felt that sting again when my former shipmate, Navy Chief Andrea Washington, died (She’s third from the left in the back row).

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I had the day off on Guam when I found out she was most likely murdered. I drove around the island that day, processing the recent death of a person I hadn’t gotten to know well enough to grieve and found myself grieving anyway. In my last sermon on the ship, Andrea had raised her hand to rededicate her life in Christ. She had always supported my efforts to share Christ on the ship, and I wish I had both shared him more and better taken advantage of her faith while I was stationed with her.

I spent some time remembering how angry I had been when my friend Chris died. It took years for me to get over his death, and even now I feel there are conversations with God I haven’t had yet that I’ll need to have someday before I, too, fall asleep in the Lord.

I’ve learned that hope is a tough thing to have when death arrives. The emotional venting that often takes place saps hope like a suction pump. Yet hope is all I had to work with when my little sister died, just a few short days before her 16th birthday. And it’s all I have now, when I think back to a woman who meant so much to so many on our ship.

Despite all of my confusion and pain, my faith COMPELS me to believe that God is in control. It FORCES me to consider that he is in charge of every situation…that Andrea’s death didn’t catch him by surprise. It fences me in as I struggle through varied emotions. All of them are acceptable as long as they lead me back to the same conclusion: God cares.

I am drawn to the book of Matthew now, even as I was when my sister passed: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

And in this my hope is restored. It is in these verses that my anger, frustration, and confusion melt away in the knowledge that God is sovereign over all things. That he will see to justice, even if we never see it here on earth. That somehow, Andrea, Meghan, Chris, and all of the other deaths I’ve responded to poorly meant something in the grand scheme of things…his grand scheme. It is in these verses that death loses some of it sting. It hurts less when I trust God with my loved ones.

I am humbled by this. And I am grateful.

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One thought on “Death’s Sting

  1. Thank you for sharing your honest responses to death. In a way, death should sting as it is the outcome of sin and the fall. You are so right that for Christians there is hope. That hope comes from believing heaven is better than earth, that our loved ones who “died too early” aren’t really missing out on anything here because they are in the overwhelming awesome presence of God. That thinking requires a shift in thinking and viewpoint. Again, thanks for sharing and making me think. 🙂

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