Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Theology of Death

I am hurting right now. I believe that God revealed more of Himself to me last year in the late summer and into the fall and winter. I could accept what I read and see how it gelled with Scripture. It made sense. It made God make sense.

I have known people who have died without Christ, and I could accept it. Ninian and Robin come to mind. They died as Pagans and I know they will not be in heaven, and I could accept that.

And then I got the call about Dad on Saturday morning, February 26. My sister said he wouldn't last the week. Two days later I was on a plane to Seattle to see my Dad before he died.

When I got there he was on a respirator, totally non-responsive, and in a vegetative state. The doctors said there was brain damage. He had had a heart attack and it took them 25 minutes to bring him back. It would have been kinder to let him go, but my sister didn't understand how important that DNR (do not resuscitate) order would have been. And so they worked on an 88-year-old man who was brought back with no quality of life.

It can take three days after a heart attack for the patient to recover enough to communicate. I asked the doctors to wait the full three days. After that, my sister asked that he be made comfortable with morphine, and we decided to let him go. He had too many other things wrong, and his organs were shutting down one by one. We said our good-byes, and had him taken off the respirator Tuesday night. He died at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday morning. I had left the hospital about two hours earlier, but my sister was there.

I did not realize how hard his death would hit me. I keep trying to pray and just end up in tears. I pleaded with God to save him, and He answered "no." And so I find an anger welling up in me at my God who could have saved Him but chose not to. To run back to my Arminian beliefs would be merciful - Dad chose to reject Christ, so he is getting his wish.

But I see something quite different in Scripture, and that is where the struggle lies. How can God possibly be glorified when so many people go to hell? I can see how His justice is glorified in the just condemnation of sinners, but why does it have to be so many? Why does it have to be my Dad?

I believe God is worth the struggle, or I would walk away now. But with Peter, I am constrained to say "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). There is nowhere else to go, and so I must wrestle this out. But my natural self does not like what Scripture clearly teaches, and so anger at God is added to my grief, and what a deep grief this is!

Things were going so well for me - God had revealed more of Himself to me, and drawn me into a deeper relationship with Him. Little did I know how important that relationship would become. He is all I have in this valley, my only hope of coming out the other side with my faith still intact. He chased away the gods I used to worship, so there is no temptation to go back, but I struggle to remain with Him.

How quickly life can change from loving and cleaving to God and basking in that deeper relationship with Him, to grief and pain and anger! I am praying, and I know He hears me and is not angry at my anger. I am praying for His help in this, and praying that He will change my heart to be in sync with Scripture, no matter how much my natural self may abhor it.

I am thankful that He drew me into that closer relationship with Him last December because it is the only thing getting me through right now - knowing I can talk to Him and pour out my heart and my tears and that He will not judge me, even if I can't fully trust Him right now.

I want to thank all of you for praying for me this past week. Your prayers and outpouring of support held me up and helped me to get through a very difficult week. I could feel God sustaining me and your prayers were a part of that. Prayer is the only thing that has helped: my prayers for myself, and your prayers for me. I cannot overstate its importance.

But it's not over for me just because I am back home and back at work and life is starting to get back to a semblance of normalcy. Please continue to pray. I need it now just as much as last week as I wrestle through these issues with God.

I am dealing with anger against God, as well as grief over my Dad's death, and regret for the things I didn't say and all the time I spent not praying for him. God saves people through means, and one of those means is prayer. I have failed Him in this area and had to repent. There is so much regret, so much I have failed to do and say and pray that I feel and I have little right to ask God to forgive me for so much. And yet He does.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He has called me. All who are called are saved (Romans 8:30), but why doesn't He save more people? Why didn't He save my Dad?

It seems a lot of people are dying lately - Norma's dad, Brent's grandfather, Brad's sister-in-law, and the friend of someone I subscribe to on YouTube (what a sad story that is!). But these people all died in Christ and are with Him now. I don't have that hope.

God's glory is above all, and in some way I don't understand, every person - saved and unsaved - contribute to His glory. And so I must believe that in some way, not saving my Dad brings more glory to Him than saving him would. And this is where my mind goes *tilt* and my understanding ends. I know all this is true on a head level, but my heart aches for my father and I can't understand it emotionally. Suddenly, nothing makes sense. God doesn't make sense. Just when you think you know Him, something happens that challenges everything you believe. I'm free falling and don't know when or where I will land.

I have never known a grief this deep, a regret so profound, a God so unknowable.

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