I have found in recent times that I have begun speaking of Bethany and Katie, in the present tense.
It just feels right.
And the Bible tells us that we are all eternal creatures.
One day, sitting in the sanctuary of our home church, Pastor Wes George said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “We all spend eternity somewhere.”
This was before Bethany and Katie died.
And you know, he didn’t say anything I didn’t already know, but the way he framed it, just seemed to boil it down to a profoundly powerful succinct message of truth.
We all spend eternity somewhere.
And let me tell you—that somewhere—that somewhere is absolutely the most important thing to a bereaved parent—spouse—child—friend.
All the things—every deed—goal—hope—expectation—ideal—every single thing that draws our attention in this life is reduced to one primary concern when you stare death in the face. Where will eternity be spent?
The body dies but life goes on; even for the deceased.
And what the bereaved believes about the afterlife is all of the sudden of utmost importance.
And frankly, it’s all about the bereaved at this point in time.
The deceased has lost the opportunity to figure out and act upon what they believe about eternity. The choice they made, or chose not to make, in this life is now their eternal destiny.
But for the bereaved those beliefs have the power to extend hope or destroy the heart.
And that’s why the cultural belief that all roads lead to Heaven, that we all worship the same God regardless of what name by which we call Him, is so deceptively destructive.
It allows us to make light of the most vital question and decision every human must address. And the failure to make a decision is a decision in and of itself. The decision to postpone making a choice, and the decision not to choose, result in eternal consequences, just as making a conscious choice does. And that is why the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:2,
“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting (or in some translations, the house of mirth): for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.”
The loss of a loved one—the natural end of all men—forces those with hearts not already harden to seriously consider exactly what they believe about the afterlife and hopefully leads them to make a conscious choice—for the sake of their own eternal future.
Everyone spends eternity somewhere.
I have made my choice.
I have no question and no fear about where I will spent all of eternity.
It’s not a decision I’ve made lightly.
I didn’t just drink the Kool-aid, so to speak.
Twenty-four years ago, I took my first real trip to the house of mourning. As a result, I reexamined everything I believed about eternity—who got to Heaven and how. Then I reaffirmed the choice I made many years before when the need to make a decision seemed far less critical.
I couldn’t have been more wrong about the priority of that choice, and that fact was never more evident than when I knelt by the side of the road frantically trying to determine if my oldest daughter was alive or dead. She was 20. Twenty years old, far younger than the average lifespan in our current day. And then I repeated that same assessment, dead or alive, for my 18 and 16 year old daughters.
That day, my 20 and 16 year old daughters lost the opportunity to make a decision regarding their eternal futures. The choices they made, or failed to make, prior to that day had already begun to be played out for the entirety of their days without end.
Consequences good or bad . . .
On that day, I wasn’t confident that my 20 year old had chosen the way I desperately desired for her to choose. Even in a state of shock, I knew . . . I knew the time for deciding was lost. My opportunity to influence—over. And ironically, just an hour before the accident that stole her life, we’d debated the issue of evolution and creation theory.
One short hour before her death.
And as I knelt at her side in stunned disbelief, my heart fractured in a way it had never done before. In my shock, during which I’ve been told my mind entered a state of disassociation, I stumble from her side in order to find my two other children. Now, when I rewind the tape of that moment, I literally see myself sitting back on my heals and keening out a desperate and despairing cry of, ‘Noooooooo!’ to the heavens, and collapsing on her still form. ‘Noooooooo, Noooooooo!, Please, God, Noooooo! There is no more disturbing and heartbreaking sound on earth than that of a mother keening out her sorrow over the body of her dead child. And there is no greater fear than being unsure of your loved one’s eternal destiny—unless you feel assured that their eternity will be spent in Hell instead of Heaven—and that’s nothing short of terrifying.
It was three long months later when I discovered a journal with only two entries that had been written four years prior to her death, that gave me any hope, any peace, that she might be spending her days dining with the Savior of her soul in paradise forevermore.
Three utterly agonizing months.
And, I won’t really rest easy until I see her again; face to face.
If you’ve not decided what you believe about the afterlife; I urge you not to delay.
My greatest frustration in regards to the topic of the existence of God and the afterlife is that our culture seems to endorse the concept that every resource, aside from the Bible itself, is a legitimate source with which to make such an all-important decision.
Those who encourage you to disregard the Bible are doing you a grave disservice along with manipulating you toward the decision they want you to make. I encourage you to choose the Bible in addition to any other resources you desire. And frankly, I can say that because God is not at all concerned with how His word stands up against any other source.
By encouraging you to research other sources including the Bible, it should be plainly evident that I’m not trying to manipulate your decision. Instead, I want you to compare and contrast what God’s self-proclaimed word says with what any other source you choose has to say. You will probably discover that every other source tells you what the Bible says. You may think that means reading the Bible yourself is unnecessary but that’s not the case because verses will be quoted, but taken out of context, and thereby the true meaning is warped or lost altogether. The Bible is the only inspired source revealing God’s character and His own declaration on every moral choice presented to man. So it’s important that you include the Bible in your choice of resources in order to make a non-biased decision.
Research and choose.
Don’t forfeit your chance to consciously decide where you will spend all of eternity; because . . .
Everybody spends eternity somewhere.
October 25, 2016 at 5:48 am
As you always do-you thoughtfully and completely lay out your reasoning. And, as only a mother who has buried children can do-you have added the authenticity that many need to hear and heed. Yes, we all spend eternity somewhere. We all live forever-but WHERE we live forever is determined while we yet live here. Thank you for this clarion call. I love that you affirm the fact that God is not intimidated by our wondering and our comparing and our researching. His word is strong and it stands up to scrutiny.
October 25, 2016 at 7:20 am
Yes. Well said. Research is so important. I also wondered what my son’s decision had been. He was not living at home. He was questioning the faith he was raised in. Several weeks after God took him back, I have to cling to the idea that God took him, not the other guy, my husband found on Johnny’s computer the research he did into God and religion. He so wonderfully surprised us on Father’s Day that year, 5 weeks before he left, by driving 90 minutes to join us in church. That Sunday, for the first time in a long time, he joined in the service rather than just sitting there. I take that as a sign that he made his decision for God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Thank you, Janet.
October 25, 2016 at 8:05 am
Thank you for sharing Johnny’s story. I imagine it was a great comfort for you to discover his research in combination with his Father’s Day trip home and to church. I think you have a solid reason to hope that he made a choice to follow Christ. His participation in the service must have meant so much to you and your husband even prior to his death. I wish you and I had more confidence – more assurance – but regardless, the outward trappings can be deceiving and only God can truly see what’s in the heart. You and I have good reasons to hope and we will cling to the evidence before us until we find ourselves face to face with our Savior. God bless you and your family, Nancy.