Daily Devotions

The Way Through Death

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Realizing that their father was dead, Josephs brothers said, What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” (Genesis 50:15)

 

Funerals are painful for many reasons, some of which have little to do with the actual death of the loved one. A death changes the power dynamics within the family. Who is going to fill the void? Did this loved one hold the family together against fracture? If so, then the loss of this loved one could be the end of family unity. Was this loved one the tie that bound the family together? If so, then the family may drift apart. Fear of splintering the family can cause stress that leads to even more division. Then, when you add the splitting of assets and other financial changes to this already tender environment, it can become truly destructive.

 

It doesn’t have to be this way. Joseph returned from burying his father, Jacob. His brothers had been cruel and tried to kill him. He had every right to cut them out financial, socially, and emotionally. Joseph decided to trust God by responding with humble forgiveness. His brothers had repented and he decided to take them at their word. He wasn’t keeping track of the dollars. He also didn’t keep track of the slights.

 

When we let other people our control our emotions, they have control. God is the only one who should be allowed to have control. When we let them affect our energy, our emotions, our actions, we become no better then the one with whom we are upset.

 

While we may never do this well, it is our charge to live above the pettiness and manipulations. In the end, forget the financial disparities, because they don’t matter more than your soul. In the end, the little and big disrespectful statements may hurt, but they do not define us, and at our best, they do not affect our decision making.

 

Decision making takes many forms. We make little decisions every minute about how we are going to feel, think, respond, and speak. We make big decisions on how we are going to treat others. Each of those big decisions took place after dozens, if not hundreds, of little decisions added up and influenced the big one.

 

When you are in the midst of your worst stress, like a death, it is even more important to act like Joseph, and think beyond the moment, and remember the big picture. You are a child of God. We are already living in eternity, and each little decision made intentionally, brings divine joy. Today, spend some time thinking about your best you. What does that look like? Then, intentionally focus on each feeling, word, and action the rest of this day. Like everything else it takes practice, but with practice, painful moments like a death can ban bring renewed life!

Grief Has No Real Power

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Then Joseph threw himself on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. Joseph commanded the physicians in his service to embalm his father. (Genesis 50:1-2a)

 

Death is as real as life itself. In our society we are very good at ignoring death. Even after more than thirty years of pastoral ministry, having sat with hundreds of people as they’ve taken their last breath, I remain shocked by the finality of death. One minute a person is there, no matter how non-responsive, and the next minute they are gone. I believe you can experience the very soul leave a person’s body. In the moment of death, you know they are no longer with you.

 

I don’t know what is worse, knowing you will never see them again, or knowing you will never be able to talk with them again. There have been so many times, after my mother’s death, that I thought of something that only she knew, and thought of calling her, then recognizing that she will never answer again.

 

There is also the reality that my life was never going to be quite the same. Most of my life hadn’t changed. I remained a husband and father. I was still a pastor with my ongoing list of responsibilities. Yet, in the moment of her death, something radical happened. Now, neither Jill or I have any remaining parents. She and I were now the oldest. We took the baton from my mother as the oldest in the room. I am so bummed, even my son-in-law’s parents are younger! ARGH!

 

Each day I thank God for my faith. I do not have to “grieve as one who has no faith,” and neither do you. I believe the soul remains and that one day we will all have our place in God’s heavenly kingdom. Now, the Bible isn’t clear about whether we will recognize each other in heaven, or whether we will even have memories of our earthly life, but we and our loved ones will continue. It makes death a lot more fathomable.

 

Today, think about your brushes with death. How do you grieve? How do you find your strength in recovery? What is your belief system as it relates to death and eternal life? As you formulate your understanding on these issues, you will find the strength to address death and the change it requires in your life. Pray for God to guide you through the intellectual and emotional challenges this fundamental challenge inspires in you. Never forget the Triune God is at work in fulfilling the divine promise in your life, and the life of all those you know. Praise God!

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