In late November I preached the funeral of my wife Rachael’s 92-year-old grandmother, Marie Childers. It was a beautiful, socially-distanced gathering that allowed only a limited number of participants. The graveside funeral featured heartfelt music, the reading of sacred scripture, personal reflections and a gospel message. The family was not able to receive guests as you would during normal conditions.
The family experienced comfort from the passage below as COVID-19 restrictions did not allow personal visits to Mrs. Childers for many months. It was certainly a long goodbye, but was assisted by God’s very present help. Life should be cherished — even when times are challenging.
The Bible tells us: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” (Psalm 23:4).
This experience with Mrs. Childers taught me:
1. God is the author of life. Each person is precious in the eyes of God. We are thankful for the skilled health workers, especially those who cared for Mrs. Childers during these unprecedented times. Acts 17:25 reminds us that God “gives all life and breath.” Each breath we take is a gift from the Lord at every stage of life.
2. Nothing is a surprise to God. COVID-19 took me, and seemingly the whole world, by surprise. However, God wasn’t overtaken by this pandemic. He is with us and will help us through these times. I am very thankful for the researchers working hard to find a vaccine for this virus.
Let’s remember to intentionally pray for those conducting this research and claim the promise found in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.”
3. Family matters. During these moments at the graveside, many memories with Marie and our family came to mind. Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are such important times for families to gather and be as one.
This year was different. Celebrating and being thankful to God for His blessings are central for each believer. The pandemic caused us to shelter-in-place for extended periods of time with our families. Count this as a real blessing.
4. Heaven changes everything. Marie is now in the presence of Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 the Bible reaffirms the reality of a deceased Christian by stating, “To be absent from the body but present with the Lord.”
Yes, heaven is real! No more pain, disease or suffering. While there were tears from each family member present, we claimed this precious promise from God. I strongly encourage church leaders to provide biblical teaching on heaven and what Jesus said in John 14:1-6.
I urge each follower of our Lord to be careful during this season. The church is essential in helping this world deal with COVID-19 and the many physical, mental, emotional and spiritual challenges it brings. I now understand the heartbreak many people have felt in losing a loved one during this pandemic. Let’s LOVE LIFE!
French Harmon, is president and CEO of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation.