Early Friday morning, after he had taken Caleb potty, Jason climbed back in bed with me as he often does. “I need to tell you something,” he said. There was a serious note in his voice. I thought maybe it had to do with our over-priced air conditioner repairs or something with the church.
But then he looked at me and told me what was wrong: “Brooke died.”
My sister-in-law was only 34 years old.
If I live another hundred years I will never understand this. But Jason and I spent the weekend pouring over our Bibles anyway, searching for truth and hope and comfort.
As I read and wept and prayed and read some more, I was reminded of two things.
First, God is bigger than me. And not just a little bigger. Infinitely bigger. When Job lost his wealth, his children, and his health in one fell swoop, he cried out to God about his anguish, but God never explained to Job why he was suffering. He simply reminded Job how big he was. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” God says. “Have you ever given orders to the morning?… Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons?” (Job 38:4, 12, 32)
I wasn’t there when God made the world. I can’t control the weather or the wild animals. I am not God. And sometimes, in this magnificent world that He had the wisdom to create and is able to sustain, there will be things that I cannot understand.
Secondly, death is not the end. As Jason and I studied together, we kept coming back to passages about what happens after you die. For people who have trusted in Jesus, this is a great comfort, as we know that after we die, we will go to be with Him and our loved ones who have gone on to eternal life ahead of us.
But I also couldn’t escape the fact that this will not be the reality for all people. Brooke’s obituary, a beautiful piece penned by my farther-in-law, says “The end of Brooke’s life and her personal struggles do not define her,” and that is so true. My sister-in-law left a beautiful legacy of love. But ultimately, there is one choice that will define each of us: whether or not we choose to follow Jesus.
So I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom, crying big, ugly tears, not just because I was grieving a beloved sister, but because it had hit me all over again that life is fleeting, and that there are people around me who need to know the truth.
Heaven and hell are real places. And God is a true and righteous judge. He’s provided a way for us to escape the punishment we all deserve for disobeying Him, but if we reject his Son, and the atonement he made for our sins, there is no hope for us.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 says, “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire… he will punish those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be shut out from the presence of our Lord and from the majesty of his power.”
I don’t want my friends and loved ones to be shut out from God’s presence. I want every one of them to surrender to Jesus before they breathe their last breath. And the truth is, we have no idea when that will be. I never imagined that the last time Brooke was here would be the last time I’d see her this side of heaven. But we are not promised tomorrow.
So don’t waste today.