A Momentary Light Affliction
I don’t do well with death.
I hate it.
In my 38 years, I’ve been to one wake and three funerals. I’ve said goodbye to a dear friend who died tragically on Cougar Flight 491 and I’ve said good-bye to two of my wife’s grandparents; last night was her third. Despite not having any living grandparents myself, I’ve never buried anyone in my immediate family. Neither parents, aunts or uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, nor friends, colleagues, acquaintances, none!
Even my old cat, MoeMoe, whom I cherished…even he died while I was living in Australia. I couldn’t even bury my own cat!
So, no, I don’t have much experience with death, but I hate it all the same.
But last night was different: my wife and I tuned into a live stream of her grandfather’s funeral in Australia. This was a first for both of us.
If I can be honest, the whole experience was rotten. Having to say good-bye is hard enough but having to do so from a distance is even worse. Even if we had the financial means to do so, because of COVID19 and travel restrictions, you can’t even book a ticket back to Australia from Canada – it’s not even an option! Australia is not even on the list of countries Air Canada will fly to at the moment.
And then this morning, after asking my wife how she was doing, she replied: “All I want to do is hug my mom”
At the root of it, she (and I) longed for relationship with her family.
Created in the Image of God
We are created in the image of God.
In fact, the Mile One Mission team started a podcast on this exact subject. You can check it out here.
There’s a lot of debate about what this means but one thing is clear: God is a communal God. He loves relationship, and communion, and fellowship, an intimacy. Let’s just be clear for a second, we weren’t created to fill some sort of relationship gap with God, no, the Trinity – The Father, Son and Spirit – are, and were, in perfect relationship within themselves long before humans were created. But that’s another subject.
As image bearers of God – I’m convicted – that we too are created for relationship and fellowship and communion and intimacy not only with God but with each other.
Although we weren’t created to enhance or fill a gap, God longs to be in relationship with His creation. He longs to be in fellowship with us.
You see it in the Garden.
You see it when he commands the Israelites to built the Tent of Meeting.
You see it when he commands the Israelites to construct the Temple.
You see it now, through His saints, as those who put their faith in His Son (Jesus) now become His dwelling place. His Spirit lives in us.
And you will see it in its full realization when people from every tribe, tongue and nation are collected before His throne in perfect union and relationship when the Kingdom of God is fully consummated.
As long as humans have been around, we’ve longed for relationship. Everywhere you look you will find humans in some form of relationship be it friendship, marriage, family, or acquaintanceship.
And this is why death sucks. This is why death has a sting – if only temporarily. When we lose someone, the relationship is broken. Something that was is no longer.
Death is a reminder of God’s judgment. Death isn’t natural. It’s not part of His perfect design. Death is completely anti-relationship. Death destroys, it tears down, and it shoul remind us of two things:
- That our relationship with God has broken
- And that we are designed for relationship
This was driven home to me more so as we watched the funeral than at any time in the past. There I was trying to mourn the passing of my wife’s grandfather, but I felt a void. I felt removed. It felt like there was something missing.
We gathered to remember the life of Don, but I couldn’t, truly, connect and relate.
Between us and her family is 17,100km.
Not only were we reeling through the death of her grandfather, but we were doing so 17,100km away from our family. There was the very real break in relationship with us and her grandfather, but I was also hit with the fact that there was a second break in it all: distance.
And so, as we watched, the curtain was drawn across the coffin and the finality of his life had come to a head. Maybe it was the emotions or maybe it was God tugging at me – whatever it was – I was reminded that we are created to be in relationship. Our relationship with Don – at least in the physical sense – was broken. The relationship between my wife and I and her family in Australia, was broken.
And our relationship with God, was broken.
*I say "was" not because my wife and I, last night, had a broken relationship
with God, no, I say "was" because - as with everyone - we once were rebells and
slaves to sin.
All this is to say that Christ makes all things new and, in Christ, the most important relationship of all is restored: our relationship with God.
Yes, death still stings. Yes, time and distance can make even the most secure relationship feel stretched and strained. But this is the hope of the Gospel: all of this pain, suffering and heartache is temporary. It is, as the Apostle Paul reminds us “a light and momentary trouble” that will achieve “for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”
And this is why we press forward to proclaim the good news of the Gospel: it hurts now, but it won’t always.
To Him be all the glory now and forever.
 2 Cor 4:17