“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
A few months ago, a good friend’s stepfather passed away after years of declining health. A few weeks later, another friend’s mother lost her battle with breast cancer. And then I heard of a couple who recently lost their 2-year-old child.
This string of passings, has caused me to reflect on all this loss, all this death. And as I sat at my friend’s stepfather’s funeral and watched everything but the walls grieve and heave with sorrow, Revelation 21:4 came to mind. “Death shall be no more.” Won’t that be something? No more hospitals, no more funerals, no more caskets or cemeteries. But as that verse reverberated in my head over the following several days, a promise much deeper revealed itself and I found my heart longing after heaven in a new and powerful way.
“Death shall be no more.” What if that verse applies to death beyond physical death? What if that promise covers every kind of death, big or small, that we experience in this life, on this earth? Another dear friend is currently wrestling with the possibility that her marriage is dying; that the death of her vows, her partnership, her union, is impending and imminent. I can tell you after listening to her desperate heart that she could definitely use less of this kind of death. And then there is my 11-year-old son. He came home from school not too long ago and a classmate had enlightened him to the word “bisexual.” And there in my kitchen, there was a death of innocence. A small piece of his naivety breathed its last right there at my table. And as a mother longing to protect her child, I would have given nearly anything for less of this kind of death. Or what about friendship? Nearly a year ago, someone I thought was a friend found fault with a decision I had made and began spewing venom like I’d never experienced. Her words and opinions quickly deteriorated into betrayal, lies, and intentional malice. And so, a friendship died, violently and loudly. And less of this kind of death would have been welcome.
Now I realize that the latter part of the verse covers some of what I’ve just mentioned. “…neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…” But death is an entirely different beast all together. Yes, I am thrilled at the promise of no more crying or pain, but often times, mourning and pain have an end date. They stay for a while, make our lives miserable and then find the exit door. Not so with death. It is permanent. Resurrection, unfortunately, rarely happens this side of heaven.
Furthermore, there are also a fair amount of deaths we experience every day that may not induce pain or crying. But they are deaths nonetheless. Many of us have experienced the death of a hope or dream. Perhaps something we longed to do or become and life has simply taken another direction. And while the new direction may be fulfilling or enriching, there was still, somewhere along the way, a dream that died.
I know that for me, personally, there are often deaths regarding expectations. Frequently, I have anticipations or hopes for others around me, as well as myself, and they are simply not met. And I have to die to my expectations. And although these may not be wept over or mourned, they are still deaths and something that I am anxious to have less of.
Scripture mentions all kinds of things about heaven: a mansion with many rooms, a city of gold, great rewards. These things are all grand and glorious in their own right. But my longing for heaven has nothing to do with gold streets, a house, or even some kind of return or prize for my faithfulness. My ache for the eternal is spurred on and fueled by that one promise in Revelation. “Death shall be no more.” Death shall be no more. I can’t even wrap my head around that promise. I cannot conceive of an existence that brings nothing but life from sunrise to sunset. The idea of it is both foreign and exhilarating.
I am tired of death. I am weary from shouldering death, in some capacity, each and every day. We all are. Ask the widow, ask the single mother, ask the fatherless child and the waitress at a café in Hollywood. Ask the prostitute and the drug addict. Ask the washed up athlete or the alienated high school student. We are surrounded by death. And I am certain that death is something we all need less of. And while ultimately, we can rest and rejoice in the promise that death itself will die, in the meantime, we can cling to the giver of the promise. While we hold on fiercely to the message, we must also hold on to the messenger. But that, my friends, is a topic for another day. Until then, take heart dear one, for “death shall be no more.”