In a time when governments and churches are reopening, and life is beginning to return to a semblance of normalcy, many continue to grieve the loss of loved ones—some never having had the chance to say goodbye. This reminds me of a particularly painful time in my life in 1991 when I was introduced to a new church district and spent the whole day and evening at church in meetings. There were no cell phones back then. That day, my father called me more than 10 times and did not get to speak with me. As it turned out, he would die the following day, while giving a Bible study. In the midst of the study, (I was told), my father started to cry with increasing intensity, “Jesus is coming soon! Jesus is coming soon! Jesus is coming soon!” And as he chanted about the Second Coming, he fell down and died. The man with whom my father was studying accepted the Adventist message soon after my father’s death. Yet, to this day, I wonder what my father wanted to tell me that Sabbath before he died.
Recently, the bereaved relative of a COVID-19 victim told me that the saddest thing about their loss was the fact that they did not get to say goodbye to their loved one. For many in this pandemic, not being able to be present with dying loved ones has been the most difficult aspect. Many were not allowed in the healthcare facilities, while others were not even aware that their relatives were dying.
The apostle Paul rightly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:19, NIV, that “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” But thank God our hope is not in this life alone. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first”—1 Thessalonians 4:16, KJV. We have the hope of the resurrection. Death will not have the final word. Jesus will. God’s promise is that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). And certainly not at the time of death.
At the time of this writing, 162,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19 (Google search 8/13/20). If we are not careful, we may become insensitive and oblivious to the enormity of suffering that death lays on the hearts of the bereaved. Death is a cruel enemy capable of plunging anyone into despair, discouragement, and deep depression. The good news is that our Savior understands the deepest longings of our hearts, and we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV).
In this time of uncertainty, when COVID-19 is a painful and constant reality, it is good to anchor our hope in the promises of God. This virus will not have the final word. It’s so good to know that Jesus has already conquered sickness, death, and pain. Psalm 116:15, NKJV, says: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
Let us honor the legacy of those lost to COVID-19, not only in celebrating their lives and cherishing their memories, but in living our own lives in preparation for eternity and the day when death itself shall be no more.