As some of you know my grandfather (henceforward referred to as "granddaddy") is dieing. The doctors have given him about two weeks at most to live or it could be as soon as any moment. This has all come very suddenly for all of us in the family. Just a few weeks ago Granddaddy was doing what he does best, preaching/pastoring, and doing it well. He has been doing that well for 52 years! But, a few weeks ago he was admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis due to heart medication he has been taking, released, resigned his ministry, preached for his last time, and now as of Saturday is back in the hospital and will more than likely spend his final days here on this earth there.
I am sure that I will be posting more in the coming days as the reality of all that is happening becomes more and more "real." Nothing that I will post today or at any time in the future should communicate to you that this does not hurt. It does. But, it is as Paul told the Corinthians--"sorrowful, but always rejoicing."
I find myself, only by God's grace to me in Jesus Christ, living the truth of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." That verse was one of the first passages of Scripture that God impressed in my newly made heart. I have had to live that verse out in different difficult "circumstances"--both in health and in the many "afflictions" that can come with being a pastor.
But, I have never had to live that verse through the circumctance of death--until now. God, in his grace, has seen fit to guard me from experiencing the death of a close loved one for the first 32 years of my life. That grace is not lost on me and as I begin to hurt over my granddaddy's impending physical death, that grace becomes more and more precious.
What do I have to be thankful for in the face of my granddaddy's death? Time would not allow me to list all of the occasions of gratitude, but I want to mention just a few. I am thankful God has given me a loving wife to walk through this with me. I am thankful that God has given me a mom that even through her pain in all of this--which I am sure is much greater than mine--still is being my mom and concerned about my hurt and my pain. I am thankful for a loving church family who I know will carry me and my family to the throne room of God and that God will answer their prayers for us. I am so thankful to the Lord that He saved my Granddaddy and me and so when I spoke to him on Saturday night, for what will probably be the last time, we could have this exchange--Granddaddy: "I love you with all my heart. I will see you in heaven." Me: "Yes, you will. I love you too."
Finally, I am thankful to God that I never have had to experience, nor will I ever have to experience death without looking at it through the lens of the Gospel. I will never experience death without the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit to carry me through it. I will never experience death without knowing the words of my Lord, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you...My grace is sufficient for you...All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose." I never will have to walk through death without the hope of the Gospel. I never had to experience this curse of sin--death--with the heart or through the lens of an unbeliever.
That is a grace from God that I am so thankful for and that I know that I do not deserve. However, on the cross Jesus Christ not only forgave my sin and gave me a new heart, satisfying God's wrath against my sin and giving to me His righteousness, but there on that cross He purchased for me and all who believe every good gift and every bad thing that God turns for our good and His glory.