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Lessons From Grief: Living Is About Dying

How losing my husband made me focus on the gospel.
By Sabrina Beasley McDonald


Somewhere along the way my Christian walk became complicated.  There were so many questions about living that weighed on my mind: What do I do with my money?  How do I get along with my family members?  What does God want me to do with my life?  It seemed the questions concerning life were endless. 

But on September 24, 2010, tragedy struck my family, making the resolve to those questions quite clear. All the difficulties that nagged me in life had one very simple answer: the gospel.  

It was on that day that my husband, whom I deeply loved, was killed instantly in a car accident.  We had a wonderful marriage, served God together, loved our children.  David was a man of character and grace, loved by all who knew him.  But in a blink his life was over.

I struggled for a while with the why’s: Why would God take such a good man away from his innocent babies? Why would He break up a beautiful marriage that reflected His love?  Why not take someone else, a man who deserved to die?

But somewhere in the midst of my grief the Holy Spirit reminded me that, in a sense, we all deserve to die—even a guy as great as my husband.  God didn’t create man to die; He created us to have fellowship with Him forever.  But the moment Adam and Eve chose to sin, they brought death upon themselves and, subsequently, the rest of their offspring.  They were warned of the consequences, yet they willingly chose to disobey (see Genesis 3).

The fact that David had to suffer death wasn’t because God was “picking” on my husband.  David died because he was a sinner who brought mortality upon himself when he first chose to sin, just like his predecessor Adam (Romans 5:11-15).  In the same way, we all bring mortality upon ourselves when we choose to sin.

All of us will die.  Not one will escape it. 

Sheltered from death

In our modern society, death is not something we want to talk about or even admit.  We have been sheltered from the idea of mortality.  Not many generations ago, we lived in a world where death was just part of life.  Medicine was not as advanced; certain common illnesses had no sure cure.  People didn’t live as long as they do now.

Now, the subject of death is avoided.  Many people don’t even want to accept the fact that they are growing older.  The markets for anti-aging creams and Botox injections are booming.  The media is saturated with education about foods that will help you live longer, look younger, and avoid killers like cancer and heart disease.

All of us in today’s society, even Christians, have become accustomed to trying to make our current life on earth last longer and lived better. As Joel Osteen, the megachurch pastor, coined it, we want “our best life now.”  We work hard to manipulate money for our happiness, raise perfect children, train our spouses to love more or work more or care more.

But life on this earth will never be the “best” life.  It’s riveted with death and evil. 

The only real life is the one that we will have after we die. 

It was when I came to that final realization that I began to see how complicated I had made my theology.  The gospel is not about making life on this earth better.  It’s about the life afterward—the real life.  If the fate of all men is death, why do we spend our time focusing on the here and now?  The hope that we have is not living longer or being happy while we are here on earth.  Our real hope is that when we die, our souls are free from these bodies of sin and we can live eternally with Christ!  And it’s our job to tell as many people about that hope as we can because death is coming to all of us.

The apostle Paul looked forward to death, knowing that he would be with Christ in his eternal dwelling.  He only desired to continue living so that he might do the will of God and spread the gospel to others.  He wrote, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Philippians 1:23-24).

Paul also said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20). In other words, life on this earth is to live as Christ lived—a sacrifice for others.   But to die is where we find our true release from slavery to these mortal bodies riddled with death. 

The gospel solves it all

It may sound too simplistic to say that life is about dying.  We still must live on this earth and contend with the issues of difficult family members and financial problems.  But when we look at all these issues through the lens of death, everything lines up in order. The spread of the gospel becomes the ultimate goal of our lives, and we begin to address each one of the questions of life within that framework.   

Let’s take some of those questions for example:

Question: How do you react to difficult family members?
Answer: In a way that reflects God’s love and points them to the gospel. 

Question: What do you do with your money? 
Answer: You manage it wisely so that you may use it to help spread the gospel. 

Question: How do you treat your spouse?
Answer: You love your spouse in a way that reflects the merciful and gracious love of God so that he or she will come to know Christ through your love and so others may see an example of how Christ loves the Church (see Ephesians 5). 

Yes, life takes living.  We can’t just curl up in a corner and wait for death to come upon us.  But like the apostle Paul, we must realize that this life is only temporary and use it to point everyone we know to Christ.  I don’t mean that we all need to pack our bags and move to a Third World country.  (Although, I’m certainly not discouraging that decision, if that is what God is calling you to do.)  But the spread of the gospel is something we can do throughout everyday life.

A day is coming when each one of us will have to face death, and it may be sooner than later.  My husband was killed at age 37 while driving a normal route during a workday.  A friend’s husband died at 33 from a heart attack in his sleep.  Another friend was diagnosed with cancer in his early forties and died within a year.  As Christians, we don’t have to fear death because we have hope for the real life afterward, but let us not take our time for granted. 

As for me, brushing this closely with death has awakened me spiritually.  I can see how short my time on this earth is.  Like Paul, I praise God that it’s short.  I can’t wait to know the Lord face to face, but for the sake of the dear lost souls who walk hopelessly around me, I have resolved to do everything I can to spread the Good News for as long as I am alive.  I pray that every action I take and every duty I hold, whether it be wife, mother, sister, or friend, is characterized by the reflection of our Lord and the grace that He has given us. 

I beg you, don’t let the worries of this life distract you from the real life to come.  Keep your eyes on the light of heaven, and let your life’s goal be to leave a road map on this earth that points everyone you meet home.  The cares of this earth will be gone before you know it, but the spread of the gospel is the only treasure that will last forever.  Heaven is the prize.

Copyright ©2012 by Sabrina Beasley. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.



Meet the Author: Sabrina Beasley McDonald

Sabrina Beasley McDonald is a senior writer and web editor for FamilyLife. Over the years she has written of her engagement, wedding, and marriage to David Beasley, her experiences as a mother, her adjustment to widowhood in 2010 when David was tragically killed in a car accident, and her marriage in 2013 to Robbie McDonald. 

Sabrina has written dozens of articles for FamilyLife. Her articles have also appeared in numerous publications, including Worldwide Challenge magazine; Christian Women Today online magazine; and Australian Christian Woman.

 

 

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