Funerals. Nobody likes ’em. Sometimes we’ll attend even when we didn’t know the dearly departed, simply out of love or respect for the ones left grieving. These funerals are somewhat easier because there’s no personal grief involved – you didn’t live daily life together. There’s no storehouse of memories weighing down the mind, crushing the heart with each vivid memory of moments shared: laughter, tears… regrets. Death makes you think, that’s for sure. And even more so when the grief is personal because the one who moved on was your very own.

At times like these, many find comfort in Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:9 (taken from the prophet in Isaiah 64:4), But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” And though it does seem this promise applies to the afterlife, that’s not so. No denying the incomprehensible splendor of heaven, but these “things… prepared” are the treasures and truths to be found in the Gospel, for abundant life now! See how Matthew Henry explains it: “But the apostle speaks here of the subject-matter of the divine revelation under the gospel… things lying out of the sphere of human discovery… could they be discovered by an eye of reason, and communicated by the ear to the mind, as matters of common human knowledge may, there had been no need of a revelation… therefore we must take them as they lie in the Scriptures, and as God has been pleased to reveal them.”

Jesus revealed many things to his disciples that He did not explain to the multitudes. I can’t help but think of Lazarus, here. Naturally, Martha and Mary were devastated by their brother’s death, but our Lord was also brought to tears. This was personal for Jesus too, as Lazarus was one of His own. This story, found in John 11, gives a clear picture of God feeling our pain. His grief, however, was not like the weeping and wailing of the crowds because Jesus knew the end of the story. And He shared it with his disciples. Upon first word of Lazarus’ trouble, Jesus told them, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”. Later, before they all ventured back to Bethany. Jesus said, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.” Mind you, this miracle was the “last straw”, propelling the Pharisees to their manhunt (v. 53) and Christ to the cross. But this story isn’t just the hope of heaven; it’s about relationship. Knowing Jesus – His life, death and resurrection, as woven throughout the Old and New Testaments – that’s the whole Gospel.

Speaking of death, imagine the disciples’ grief and confusion (maybe even anger) after the crucifixion. But what followed? God sent His Spirit, confirming what they had forgotten and revealing all they had heard and not understood. The Spirit of God in us is not only our guarantee of heaven but also a decoder of the mysteries of the Gospel (Eph. 1, 3). Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot begin to understand God’s ways(1 Corinthians 2:12,14). And why does God choose to reveal things to us? Because, according to Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead”, we…are…His – born of His Spirit, bought by His blood, adopted into The Kingdom as joint heirs with Christ. Wow! No wonder “we love Him because He first loved us”.

Are you one of His own? Would Jesus show up for your funeral as a family member or an acquaintance? I think the answer to that question is (not based upon but) reflected by its reverse: Is Jesus one of your own? Ponder that. Do you have a living-daily-life-together relationship? To discover what “things” await, Christ must be the core of your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love trades its will for the Father’s and control for the cross. Let’s follow the Lord’s lead, knowing the pain has a purpose.

To “die to self” simply means giving God precedence in all things. Death isn’t easy, but surrender hurts less, even becomes satisfaction, as we learn that His designs outshine our dreams. I’m “dying” to know what God has prepared for me. Aren’t you?

SHINE, always