My Sunday school teacher is dead.
His death was just as blunt and rude as that statement. We were given no time to say good-bye, no adjustment period, no moments (even fleeting) to allow our minds to comprehend the possibility. And we were left standing stock still with our mouths hanging collectively open wondering, “What happened?”
He slipped quietly from this world with no one watching. No wife to hold his hand. No mother shedding tears. He was across the nation on business and suffered a heart attack. He was gone – just like that. By the time his wife was informed, he was already walking with Jesus.
This man was not just my Sunday school teacher for the past eleven years; he was my friend. Like many whose lives have been touched, I am broken. Why is it we Christians can preach, teach, sing, write and wear t-shirts about life after death? We talk about heaven with stars in our eyes, but when one of our own is granted passage, we act as if it isn’t fair.
I’m guilty as charged. When I heard the news, I left my full cart in the grocery aisle and ran from the store with tears flowing. As soon as I was alone in my car the sobs rolled out in wails, and the moan that followed was probably one uttered by many. “Why, Lord? Why?”
Do we shake our heads and stomp our feet when we hear of someone winning the lottery, saying, “That’s just not right. He shouldn’t have to deal with that much money?” Obviously not.
I’ve been praying a lot about this situation – hurting for my friend who is left to raise her two young children alone, but believing her husband is truly in the arms of God. I do believe there is life after death for those of us who choose to claim it. (Romans 10:9) But I also believe there is life IN death. Let me explain.
On January 12, 2012 (exactly three weeks before the death), I wrote in my journal, “For the past 3 days, I have seen/read the story of Lazarus 3 times in 3 different places. I know God is trying to speak to me through it.” I went on to write, “God, what is dead that you are going to bring back to life?” You see, I had no idea God was preparing me for this. But in His ultimate sovereignty, He was.
In the days leading up to the funeral, I’ve had the opportunity to really become the Everyday Missionary – to meet the needs of those hurting around me. I’ve been allowed to minister to my friend while she mourns. I was given the honor of writing the obituary. And to my great surprise, others have been watching. They have contacted me to let me know how touched they’ve been by it. While I’ve been shaking my head in confusion, my husband said, “Is it possible that God is using this to launch and grow your idea of being an Everyday Missionary?” There is life IN death.
Another close friend of mine called me last night excited. God has been speaking to her through this death, as well. He is opening doors for a large-scale ministry she has only dreamed of for years. “Shawn’s death has motivated me to move forward,” she told me. There is life IN death.
I sat listening to the gospel message yesterday during the funeral. I knew without a shadow of doubt there were those in the church who were making a decision to choose Christ over death, and many others were committing to change the way they were doing life. There is life IN death.
This realization doesn’t change that every other second I’m thinking of my precious friend and her sweet children as they learn to live again without their daddy. I’m still hurting, and I’m still crying. But here’s the thing. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. We have to start making a difference today. There is life IN death – if we allow Christ to raise it.
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:43-44 ESV
If you’ve been broken, if you’ve lost someone close to you, if your marriage is dead, allow Jesus to gently blow in you the hope of the living. He can perform a Lazarus moment in you. There is life IN death. What will you choose to do about it?
Please pray for my friend Valerie and her children as they mourn the loss of a great man. Shawn Smith left a wonderful legacy to inspire us all.
***UPDATE: Due to the large numbers of people reading and sharing this post, I have to believe that some of you may not be sure of your salvation. Shawn Smith is in Heaven. Do you know without a shadow of a doubt that you will see him again? If you aren’t sure where you’ll go when you die, did you know that you can? God gives anyone who chooses it the free gift of salvation. Want to know how?
It’s really pretty simple. Scroll down to the bottom of the page until you see, “Do you know my Jesus?” This will lead you through the steps to accept Christ as your personal Savior. If you do this, please email me so that I can pray for you.