I have been teaching from the Psalms on Wednesday evenings in our church. This past Wednesday was the third week and next week will be the last. It has been a very rewarding experience for me and I hope it has been helpful for the church. It has been helpful for me because of the content, of course, but perhaps more so because it is the first opportunity I have had to do some teaching since Anna’s death. It has helped me to get back to what I do best, and to help to see some things apart from Anna.
This past Wednesday I discussed the topic of life, death, and resurrection in the Psalms. The topic was chosen by me mainly as a platform to speak on some issues I had been reading about. I was not sure what I would find in the Psalms about it, but I thought that I could at least use it as a starting point for seeing what is in the rest of the Bible. In the end I was pleasantly surprised by what I found there and we had a good time with the subject.
In concluding my teaching I mentioned a misunderstanding I had at the time of Anna’s death about the resurrection. I shared a story of an incident that happened shortly after her death. When I arrived home after Anna died, her body was in our front room and I had a few moments alone with her. As I sat with her I prayed that God would raise her from the dead, just as Jesus raised the little girl in the Gospel story. As I prayed I heard what seemed to be a clear answer, saying, “I have already raised her. I have already answered your prayer.” I was filled with a tremendous peace at that moment. I knew that Anna was taken care of. I thought of her as being with the Lord, but more than that, I pictured in my mind that everything was finished for her. We even spoke of physical infirmities that Anna had here on earth that were already healed in her new body. She was with the Lord, and all was right.
While these thoughts brought me some comfort, I was aware that there was a major problem with my thinking. The resurrection has not occurred yet. It will not happen until Jesus comes again.
At first, I had a nagging feeling that the way I was thinking about Anna, that is, thinking that she was already enjoying heaven in her new body, was not right. But I knew of no alternative as a framework in which to think of her. A book that was sent to me by a friend really helped me to understand where the flaw in my thinking lay.
By thinking that Anna was already enjoying her newly resurrected body, I had pressed a future event–the resurrection–into a present setting. I think I had always unconsciously thought and spoken of the dead in this way. And yet the Bible is so clear. The dead will be raised anew at the appearing of the Lord Jesus. It is so clear and repeated so often in the Bible.
At first I was uncomfortable with the thought. Questions filled my mind. Where is she now? What will happen to her earthly body, which was burned up? I was forced into thinking about some issues regarding life after death that I for so long had pushed to the background of my faith. These questions I had always thought of as unanswerable and did not want to do the heavy lifting needed to really explore them.
The real discomfort, however, came because I wanted so much to think of Anna enjoying all the fruits of her rewards. I wanted her to have her new resurrected body. I wanted to imagine her dancing before the Lord. But if her body was not yet raised, then where does that leave her?
My despair at this point was countered by another thought. I realized that Anna was still waiting for the return of her Lord Jesus Christ. She is waiting just as much as I am now. I remembered a discussion that Anna and Samuel had one day not long before she died. One of them, probably Anna, said that she so much wanted Jesus to return before she died so that she would not have to see death. Samuel replied that if one of them died first, then that one would get to see Jesus first since it says in the New Testament that the dead will be raised first and be caught up with Him in the air at the time of the his second coming. Those still alive would have to wait until after that first meeting takes place before they meet the Lord. The children debated which would be better. To remain alive or to die but be the first to see Christ at his second coming. What a precious conversation to hear!
Now Anna has died. But she is still waiting for Jesus to come when her body will be raised anew and she will be caught up with Him in the air. I know that she is anxiously awaiting that day! And I am filled with a great deal of excitement, even in the midst of my grief, knowing that Anna and I are still living part of a great adventure as we both await the coming of our Lord. Anna and I can say together, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.”