I hope, by the grace of God, you're well.
I lost a very good friend of mine last year He was a Christian and also a classmate at the university. Everyone who came in contact with him was surprised and impressed by his level of faith at a time when he was sick and all hope was gone. He received the surgery he needed through a generous gift and recovered. You'd visit him, and his only worry was his inability to go to the small communities around to share the Word. Even if you were broken when going to his place, you'd leave there renewed. This was a person whose whole life's purpose was to serve the church. He was also my confidant and counselor, even though he was a bit younger than me.
He passed away suddenly a day after admission to the hospital for a vaso-occlusive crisis from his sickle-cell disease. It was just too sudden. He wasn't even sickly prior to that episode. I really cried, but I know that's normal.
But what I'm beginning to find abnormal is my tears even after a year has passed since his death. I go to the hospital and see that some of the sickle-cell patients, who obviously look very sickly, survive a vaso-occlusive crisis. I wonder why my friend didn't make it. Even though it is not justified, I get a bit angry. I understand that God is the giver of life, and it is gain for my friend since he served the Father faithfully and no longer has to bear the pain his body suffered. Yet, it hurts so much. I know he's in a better place, but ...
I was up all of last night crying. I only fell asleep at early this morning. When I woke up a few hours later, I'm still sad and teary-eyed. It makes me wonder why I am crying. Yes, I miss him, but if really I was right with God, wouldn't I understand that he's in a better place? A place I rather should be longing for? A place that, through God's grace and backed by works, I could also go to no matter how far or in the near future? I shouldn't be in tears, but I've cried, and I'm still crying. Does this go to show how far I am from this life's hope of eternal life?
It is a mistake to assume that your feelings are a reflection of your faith. Job suffered a great loss and was in tremendous grief; yet, his faith remained (Job 1:20-22).
Even when friends move across the country, I've known people cry. Something might happen months or years later and they find themselves wanting to talk to their friends. Today, we can pick up the phone or make a journey rapidly to most places in the world, but it wasn't all that long ago that for most, all you could do is miss them. Your friend has taken the long journey home and you miss him. There is no way you can pick up the phone to call him. Nor can you travel to visit him temporarily. All you can do wait for the day that it is your time to make the same trip. As David said about his son who died, "Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me" (II Samuel 12:23). It might seem long to you because we only see through the lens of this life. Seventy years may seem like an eternity, but, in truth, it is only a brief moment. "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (James 4:14).
Your friend lived his life for God. Isn't that what is important? Do become bitter or selfish. Yes, there are some with the sickle-cell disease who live a bit longer than your friend. There are others who don't survive nearly as long as he did. Through a generous gift, he was able to stay a bit longer than he would have if did not have the surgery. Don't begrudge that the extra time was not as long as you wanted it to be.
I've noticed over the years that those who have loved ones who die suddenly have the hardest time coping with the loss. They miss the opportunity to say goodbye and to tell the person who died how much they love him. When you know in advance that someone is dying, you have a chance to express your grief and your love with the person directly. But either way, life goes on. There are things that need to be done. While you miss your friend and cry at times when you recall him, you can't let sorrow control the rest of your life.
The Shining Shore
by David Nelson, 1843
My days are gliding swiftly by.
And I, a pilgrim stranger,
Would not detain them as they fly
Those hours of toil and danger.
Our absent King, the watchword gave,
“Let ev’ry lamp be burning.”
We look afar, across the wave,
Our distant home discerning.
Should coming days be dark and cold,
We will not yield to sorrow,
For hope will sing with courage bold,
“There’s glory on the morrow!”
Let storms of woe in whirlwinds rise,
Each cord on earth to sever.
There, bright and joyous in the skies,
There is our home forever!
For now we stand on Jordan’s strand,
Our friends are passing over;
And, just before, the shining shore
We may almost discover.
Voices of Sumphonia have a beautiful rendition of this hymn on their Song in the Night album.