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“Our mom died last night.”

January 19, 2018

7A group had gathered in my classroom for an early morning prayer meeting before the first-period bell would ring.  We scooted the desks together and I directed Alan to take the prayer requests of the dozen students who had circled up.

Anna and Alison, twin girls whom I had taught the year before, strolled in the room with wide-eyed expressions.

“Well, you’re running fashionably late,” teased Sherry good-naturedly.  “Grand entrance and all.”

“So, girls, come sit over here,” I said, motioning to some empty desks. “Seriously, we just got started.”  The others nodded and moved their desks to a wider circle.

Anna turned and stared blankly.  “Our mom died last night.”

She stated it so blatantly that we all stopped and stared back at them, unsure how to process this.  They both had vacant stares.

I rose up from my desk.  “Girls…”

Alison plopped down and let the tears flow.  Anna leaned over and quietly cried.  We all gathered around them for support.  Their mother had indeed passed away the night before from an unexpected illness, and in their shock they had dressed and come to school, unable to process any other action.

Our group prayed and comforted them, and when Alan looked up at me, I nodded.  He quietly slipped out of the room and informed others.  Soon the campus knew, and other teens joined the teachers in providing the necessary care for the twins throughout their initial day of mourning.

I would freely say that dealing with death is the greatest challenge to me as a teacher.  In the very moment that we teachers learn of a tragic event, we often need to assume the role of pastor, counselor, prayer warrior, and as close a friend as we can be.

Through my teaching career I have often experienced the deep sorrow of  the loss of a student to accident or illness.  All teachers have.  None of us grows accustomed to it; each time is as painful and as hurting as if it was the first time.

I think one of the most powerful descriptions of death is found in the Biblical book of Job, where in the eighteenth chapter it is called the “King of Terrors.”  What an apt description:  The King of Terrors.  Bible scholar David Guzik recites a Scottish tombstone which reads

O cruel Death you well may boast
Of all Tyrants thou art the most

Psalm 55 verses 4 and 5 recite the terror as well: “My heart is in anguish within me. Horror has overwhelmed me. Fear and trembling come upon me … The terrors of death have fallen upon me.”

But here’s the curious  – and amazing – experience I’ve had over the years…

Over many seasons of my teaching ministry I have witnessed a surprising thing which I can honestly admit is a puzzlement to me.  I cannot explain it on human terms.

I have stood next to the hospital beds of dying Christians through the years and I have seen one thing which links them all:  hope.

Pure, powerful hope.

These dying ones are calm, resolute and even, believe it or not, cheerful.  Cheerful, even in pain.  If I were not a Christian, I would be beyond bothered by this, but as a Believer, I can touch the hem of this eternal truth – they have a hope of Heaven.  It’s a transcendental hope that overcomes the bone-rattling fear that shakes the very core of every mortal walking this globe.

It’s not through a self-delusion.  It’s not over-medication.  It’s not ritual or liturgy, either.

It’s Jesus Christ the God Man.  The One who saves.

He really, really is the answer for which mankind has searched.  It is well stated in a book by Canadian scientist G.B. Hardy, who wrote in Countdown his search for the right faith to deal with life after death.  He explained his quest:

“There are but two essential requirements:
First: has anyone cheated death and proved it?
Second: Is it available to me?
Here is the complete record:
Confucius’ tomb – occupied.
Buddha’s tomb – occupied.
Mohammad’s tomb – occupied,
Jesus’ tomb – empty.
Argue as you will. There is no point in following a loser.

Jesus’ resurrection was a world changer, releasing the human race that had been in “slavery to the fear of death”, as stated in Hebrews 2:15.

Time and time again we read of Jesus raising people from the dead.

Here’s the good news:  He’s still in that line of business.




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One Comment
  1. Bryan Riebe permalink

    “…as a Believer, I can touch the hem of this eternal truth-they have a hope of Heaven”
    Yes, this. Sweet comfort to the sorrowing hearts of God’s children

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