A few years ago in a gorgeous mountain setting, the contrast between God’s grandeur and our human neediness struck me.
We were vacationing with a young family with charming children. All of us were excited to be together and were loving the surroundings. Then the oldest daughter confided her fear of death for herself and for her parents. Her sudden feelings of neediness surprised me.
A few minutes before, she had been happily swinging and loving being outdoors. But the coming nightfall brought to her mind her recurring nightmares.
Her nightmares repeatedly told her that she was going to die and be punished. This little girl had committed her life to Jesus and was regularly reading her children’s Bible. But Satan was still planting fears and doubts in her mind.
Having recently lost my beloved mother-in-law to death, I was able to share with this little one the power of knowing that my loved one is currently in heaven with Jesus.
I told her how much I still missed Mom and that many people do, but that Mom is now forever happy with Jesus. My little friend loved the image of happiness after death.
I reminded her of Revelation 3: 20. Jesus tells us, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
I reminded her that she had asked him into her heart. She could trust Jesus that he would keep his promise.
I also told her the story of my experience of neediness and fears when I had been about her age.
My best friend’s mom, a good friend of our family, had died after being confined to a wheelchair for many years with rheumatoid arthritis.
I had been distraught. Inconsolable. My parents had repeatedly shared encouragement and verses from scripture, but I just had not been able to take comfort from them. My emotional neediness took center stage.
Then God gave me a dream.
In my dream I saw Aunty Libby walking toward me with a glowing face and a look of indescribable joy. Not only was she walking, but she looked healthy in a way I had never seen her in life.
I was so excited that I ran to her, calling her name. She did not hear me but continued walking forward with an ecstatic look on her face.
When I turned to look at what she was walking toward, I saw indescribable beauty. The only way I can attempt to describe it is that I saw a very bright light that was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.
I threw myself down on the ground in awe. Obviously I was way too young to have read anything about people at the end of life seeing bright lights, or people lying face down in worship. But somehow that’s what I experienced.
When I woke up and saw my family at breakfast, I was so excited: “Aunty Libby’s in heaven! Aunty Libby’s in heaven!”
My parents expressed surprise, since they had both been working unsuccessfully to convince me of that. God had seen my stubborn disbelief in my grief and had reached out to give me a dream to illustrate his truth and answer my neediness.
That dream forever canceled any fears I could have of death. The pain of suffering before death can still cause dread, but death itself has always seemed a wonderful transition ever since that dream.
I shared this dream with my little friend and read her some of the description of the New Jerusalem from Revelation 21.
She was comforted. But what seemed to strike her most was my actual happiness that Mom is now in heaven. That though I still miss her, I rejoice for her.
My little friend’s face lit up as she heard my stories. She said, “I don’t think I’m going to have nightmares anymore. But will you still pray with me before bed?”
From then on, I prayed with her every night–that Satan would not disturb her sleep. Every morning she excitedly told me that she had slept so well with “NO NIGHTMARES!”
She practically danced into the breakfast room. And I was grateful that God had shown his power in canceling her fears and giving her joy. His unconditional love for us is amazing.
[Photo by ales-krivec-335251-unsplash.jpg]
Will Jesus Return on Glorious Fiery Clouds?
Will Jesus’ physical presence simply overwhelm every outdoor and indoor space, making all instantly aware of him at the same moment?
No matter how it happens—and whether it happens in our lifetimes or not—we will all know. Immediately.
One of my favorite memories of high school is of ending our Bible study lesson from The Uniqueness of Jesus. That day one of the girls in our new-believer group had an excited question: “Lisa, when it happens–when Jesus returns–promise to call me right away! Okay?”
I assured her that she would know as soon as I would, because Jesus was her savior too.
But I was amused. The thought had never occurred to me. I knew no one would need to call anyone else to alert them that Jesus had returned. But this new believer, only 14 years old, thought it logical. Since I had first told her about Jesus, she thought I would have the news before she did.
Her passionate enthusiasm for the day of Jesus’ return was contagious. She was excited and wanted it to happen soon.
I wanted to want that too. But I didn’t always live with that thought in mind.
In fact, a couple years later I remember asking my mom if it was bad that I didn’t want Jesus to come back yet. She gave me a comforting answer.
She told me that at my young age it made sense that I wanted to be able to live a while to experience so much of what life promised me. There were good things in life that God wanted me to enjoy and to look forward to.
Yet . . . I think we often fail to focus on what a greater reality we have to look forward to in spending the rest of eternity with God.
Do we need to tell our children they need to spend their time longing for Jesus’ return and for heaven? I don’t think so.
When my eleven-year-old confessed mournfully that she didn’t really want to go to heaven, I comforted her, as my mom had comforted me.
I asked her why. She told me that it did not sound appealing to sing all the time. I laughed and told her how normal she was. I said heaven would absolutely not require constant singing. It would better than the best things we can imagine.
Most of us can relate to not wanting to do anything all the time.
But we also do not want to be like the Laodiceans in Revelation 3: 16-17: “I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. So because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of My mouth.”
How can we cultivate in ourselves the excitement of my young friend? Can we help our children see Jesus as real? And that living face to face with God is going to be unimaginably wonderful?
How can we regain our first excitement and help our children capture it also?
The last time my dad spoke was in joy over seeing his new great-grandson. A few days later he was gone.
Now my mother has died. It took some time for it to sink in that I will never, ever be able to talk to them again—until heaven.
How do you explain death to a little one? We hardly understand it ourselves.
What a shock. The person is alive one day and then suddenly not alive anymore.
And the Bible says so little about our heavenly interactions with others.
So how do we help our little ones understand death when someone near them dies?
Each of our daughters was almost two years old when a grandmother died.
First one great-grandmother, then another, and then the adopted grandmother who lived next door.
These deaths seemed only negative at the time, since we were not ready to lose these special people. We even joked that we had better not have another child–not wanting to lose another grandmother when that child was two!
But the passing years have increased my gratefulness for the timing of those deaths. Each of our little girls learned early how to say goodbye to a loved one who had died.
People sometimes warned that our children would find it traumatic to go to a funeral home. We found, however, that our girls did not experience those visits as traumatic.
Though initially surprised by adult expressions of grief, they learned that death is a normal part of life. They needed to be taught to handle it well.
Though they still missed their special grandmothers, they experienced no trauma from the public grieving process.
Most importantly, they learned that Jesus went to prepare a place for us to live with him after we die. They knew their grandmothers loved Jesus and went to be with him and that we would join them someday.
One of our fun family stories is of our little one informing visiting relatives that Grandma would not be able to go out for lunch with us that day, because she was still in heaven.
I had explained to her when Grandma died, that it meant we wouldn’t be able to see her anymore because she had gone to heaven to be with Jesus.
What I had not realized was that she would think going to heaven was like Daddy going on a business trip. When her time was done, she assumed Grandma would come back.
I thought of that story again in a different way when that same daughter brought her fourteen-month-old son to my mother’s death bed to help me grieve her passing.
Though he is too little to understand it much, we both found it precious to see him wave to his Great-Nana and say “Bye, bye.”
He did not know enough about death yet to be sad, but he knew enough to give her a respectful farewell. It was good. Meeting death with little ones has emphasized for me that God is bigger than death.