Friday, June 3, 2022

Devotionals for the Heart: Life Lessons Learned from the death of a friend

Present Absence
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.” –Isaiah 57:1-2 (NLT)

The wise writer of the Hebrew wisdom book, Ecclesiastes, said that the day of our death is better than the day of our birth (Ecclesiastes 7:1). One of my friends died on May 31.

I am celebrating, even as I grieve. He is free now. We were classmates and colleagues in school and ministry for 40 years. He used to have a muscular, athletic body that had defended quarterbacks and wrestled giants but unhealthy habits led to heart failure.

He was not a perfect man. He was a rather simple man. Unremarkable. Non-confrontational. Easy to please. He was loyal. His imperfections, like our own, crippled him at times, but he knew the Lord and sought to lead others to know and love Him too.

I visited him last week. We talked frankly and honestly about life and death. He knew that his time was approaching. He told me that he was not afraid to die. He had some hopes and few regrets. There were a few things that he wished to do before dying, but if not able to do so, he was ready.

And so, it has happened. The inevitability of the mortal mutiny is now history. My friend is dead. His memory exists within the minds of everyone who knew and loved him. He is in that place between two distinct periods or eras. He is absent from the body, waiting for the resurrection that will give him a new healthy body and usher him into eternity in the presence of God.

Death is a present absence. He is gone, but forever present in our memories. For a righteous person, death is a divine gift. No more vulnerability to evil, greed, lusts, illness, dysfunction or age-related deterioration. For him and all believers, his death was the final blessing of God. Revelation 14:13 (KJV) says, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

My friend’s absence is very present around us. His body lies in storage soon to be embalmed and buried. He died believing and confidently awaiting the Resurrection Day when the dead in Christ will rise first and we who are alive and remain will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

I am celebrating today because my friend, though fallible and mortal, was ready to die. Had he done all in life that he dreamed of? No! But he lived believing and teaching that Jesus Christ was Lord and that God raised Him from the dead. He had accepted Jesus as his Savior and lived in the confident knowledge that he was saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

He declared to his doctors that he did not fear death and was ready because death had already been swallowed in the victory of Christ’s resurrection. He died confident that one day he would awaken from the slumber of death and be reunited with Christ, his wife, sons and grandchildren. He died knowing that when he rises again his heart and entire body will be repaired and renewed to the creation standard. He was confident that his destiny was not the cessation of bodily function, the absence from his body. His destiny was post resurrection eternity in an immortal frame.

We too are destined to die. The key to life is not how or when we die. It is how what we believe guides our living. If we believe and live like my friend did, how and when we die won’t matter much, because, not even death can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

I shall grieve with his family as we prepare for the funeral. I shall celebrate my friend’s death because he was ready. Are you?

I challenge you to consider your life. If death came to you today, could you greet and embrace it fearlessly? Is your eternal destiny secure? If not, I challenge you to consider a leap of faith.

Make a commitment to order the rest of your life around the life of Christ and the grace of God. It will change you from the inside out. It won’t always be easy, but the process is simple.

Let’s Pray: Dear God, be with the person reading this devotional today. Move into their lives. Fill them with the love of Jesus and Your grace. Save them in Your Kingdom today, so that whenever their time to die arrives, they will meet it fearlessly, as did my friend. Secure them now so that they can have eternity in Your Presence. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Author Bio:

Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps. 

Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.

He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.

You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address,

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