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During the months of June & July, I want to take the opportunity in the Pulse to remember some of our brothers and sisters in the faith who have gone before us into the presence of Jesus. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” In that spirit, I want to remember and honor the work of the Lord that was done by some truly special men and women and testify to how it was not in vain.
It was a little over five years ago, on May 24th, 2013 that I received a call from one of our elders to let me know that Michael and Sarah McCoy had woken up that morning to discover that their four month old son Henry had stopped breathing in his crib. As quickly as I was able, I drove to Manchester Hospital to join the McCoys, but despite our cries and prayers, there was nothing that could be done. Tragically, and without warning, Henry had passed away.
I have watched my wife go through pregnancy four times. I distinctly remember the feeling of helplessness, the feeling that the little life growing inside of her was out of my control. I could not protect them, could not ensure that they would make it to full-term as a healthy child. And once they were born, we gained what felt like a little more control, as we could feed our children, hold them close, and make sure their surroundings were as safe as possible. But in the end, as we laid them down to sleep, we had to face the hard reality that they were once again out of our control. As frustrating as it was when our baby would cry at night, the silence was sometimes even more terrifying. “Go check to make sure he’s still breathing,” my wife would often say to me.
The truth is that we have much less control over our lives and the lives of those that we love than we think. As James put it, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.’ (James 4:13-15). We may feel in our misplaced arrogance that a long life is our right as human beings on this earth, but the reality is that tomorrow is promised to no man, sadly not even to a four month old. Just yesterday I sat with a woman who had recently lost her husband, who through tears questioned why she had spent so much time making sure her home was clean instead of just sitting and cuddling with her husband in the evenings. Death comes for everyone, and too often comes calling much earlier than seems fair. How then should we live?
The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). This does not mean that death is a good thing. No – the Bible declares that death is a terrible enemy, an unwanted intruder in God’s good creation (1 Corinthians 15:26). But there is something about reflecting upon death, something about embracing the reality that tomorrow is promised to no one that can clarify things and put our lives in the proper perspective. How would you live if you knew that tomorrow was your last day? What would you say if you knew that someone you loved would die tomorrow? Death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.
I trust and believe that Henry is with Jesus now. I have only the faintest idea of what that means, of what the reunion will look like on that day when Michael and Sarah see their son again. I only know that I am so thankful that despite the uncertainty of tomorrow, Jesus has conquered that final enemy, death, and made a way for us to enjoy life eternal. Life may be more out of my control than I care to admit, but praise God that Jesus is still on the throne.
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