Sunday, 6 January 2008

The Five-Lettered "D" Word


Death--there, I said it.

I suppose we enjoy ignoring this word and its usage due to our desire for it to just disappear. After all, it reminds us of what we have lost, what we are grieving, and what used to be. Death is something we do not want to talk about because it seems so final, so unfair, and so in-the-future. But it is not any of those things. So I thank God today, for the very next breath He gives me, for His righteous justice, and for His ongoing blessing of abundant, eternal life.

Death is more familiar with me now. I suppose it comes with the nature of my current ministry. Six of my soldiers have died, to date, since my arrival at 3-7 CAV in September of 2006. Death from an automobile accident, death from medication taken for injuries sustained in combat, death from an Improvised Explosive Device, death from suicide, and finally, death from--apparantly--natural causes--these are the 'causes' as we label them.

In some of these deaths, the "whys" are not clear--and, perhaps, never will be. But even if we knew all the "whys" it would not provide us with the comfort we seek. Certainly, knowing at least a little of the "why" helps us to move on. It helps us, at least, to suppress the pain of grief for the moment. When we know that death resulted from an attack by a literal enemy, for example, we have someone to blame, someone to be angry at, some other focus rather than the hurt and loss. Anger is preferable to sadness in that it is something we feel we can have some measure of control over. Men especially feel that anger is a more appropriate response to death. However, that sense of control is deceptive. Anger is not easily controlled. Sometimes, the anger is turned inward, sometimes the anger is bottled up, sometimes it is vented in inappropriate acts. All of these situations can have disasterous consequences. We are told, and I concur, that anger is a part of the grieving process--along with shock, denial, depression, acceptance, and adjustment. To be sure, God has not promised us a life without pain or grieving, what He has promised, rather, is to be with us. In Psalm 46, the Psalmist writes, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress" (NIV). He has ALSO promised, in Psalm 23 that HE, "restores my soul." Without Him, I don't know how anyone could go on.

Perhaps this new familiarity with death is due to my age. Gone is the blissful ignorance of knowing only the old people in my life who died. People closer to me are facing and experiencing death. My father passed after his second battle with cancer in May of 2005. I remember feeling two equally intense emotions at his death. Two so equally intense emotions that they put each other in check for an entire year. At first, I didn't know what it all meant. I could not even articulate the problem. Sure, I was sad at the occasion and missed my father dearly--but I knew there was something happening inside of me that I needed to have some time to work out in my grief. At the first anniversary of my father's death, it came to me like a lightening bolt out of the blue sky. At his death, I witnessed something that was at the same time most beautiful and most horrible. The "horrible" was the effects of death and sin. The ending of this life and the suffering of the sinful nature. The "beautiful" being the transition from this sinful realm into the realm of GLORY. The "horrible" was over. My earthly father had crossed over to be with God--nothing is more beautiful than that. Realizing this on a spiritual level gave me the 'restoration of my soul' that I am sure the Psalmist is writing about. I can not imagine traveling this path without the Great Shepherd leading me.

Is death a five-lettered "D" word to you? If so, seek the help of the Great Shepherd. Jesus said, "learn of me...and you will find rest for your soul."