by Joe Greemore
Scripture and Memory Verse
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” – Psalm 116:15, KJV
This past weekend, my wife ran her first competitive race, “Run Like a Mother,” a 4-mile haul, no slacker, held in northwest Cedar Falls, IA. Our three kiddos thronged at my side, standing just beyond the finish line, trumpeting their cheers for mommy as she neared her race’s end. It was like a scene out of that movie Chariots of Fire as Shelby coalesced out of the woods into material being before our eyes and flowed on, legs surging, arms pumping, her own personal pillar of light shining through the clouds, the rest of the race traffic (were there other runners? We didn’t know – we were there to cheer on mommy) flowing toward the finish line.
Only an hour before, we had just arrived so Shelby could pick up materials, stretch, and make final preparations. The air had been thick with smoke, the result of wildfires raging thousands of miles away in Alberta, Canada and in northern Minnesota. The smoke stretched out long, gray, thick tendrils, transcending state and national borders all the way to Florida. We were surprised to find ourselves in its path and equally surprised to discover, although there was plenty of smoke, there was apparently no fire anywhere to be seen.
Nearly an hour after the race, our family huddled around a beloved church member in his hospice bed. The kids were curious why he was there, what made him sick, what did ‘cancer’ mean – enormously large and opaque concepts for children 7 years old and younger. Heck, enormously large and inexplicable concepts for me! This beloved man, the doctors said, was in the active dying process.
It used to be that whenever I heard “the death of God’s saints,” my mind conjured up images of Elijah, the chariot of fire and the horses of fire, and the whirlwind, all winding their way up through pillars of cloud and into the heavenly courts (2 Kings 2:11).
Or Enoch, who walked with God, and then was no more (5:24). Or Moses (Deut. 34:5), or Deborah (Judges), or Peter, or Stephen (Acts 7:60), or Dorcas (Acts 9:37). I thought that’s who was meant. Supernatural heroes, the larger-than-life type. The Bible is full of death and of people cheating death, like those are normal things, yet even when the mere mention of death permeates my ‘real world’ reality and my kids’ realities, I’m lost for words. It’s no wonder my children are curious.
As I wrestle with how to pray for my friend in hospice care, as I struggle in my spirit to connect with the feelings and plight of people living thousands of miles away, I seek comfort in the words of the Psalmist: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Because I suspect “saints” might mean real world people like that friend of mine. Because just as their death is precious in God’s eyes (in the sense of being seen to with care), so, too, is their life. And because just as death inevitably follows from life, so in Christ, new life leaps forth from death.
Questions to Spark Conversation
-Why is death such a difficult subject about which to talk?
-In what ways can we show our support for people who live far away or who seem far away from us?
-What does it mean to be a ‘saint’?
-Can one be alive and still be a ‘saint’?
Practice together saying a prayer for someone whose life may be uncertain. Trust God’s continual love to meet their needs. Then, if God nudges you to do so, write that person or persons a letter you could share to give them encouragement and offer support.
God of the Universe,
Thank you for making me.
Thank you for being the Author of Life,
For having the power to overcome all our fears,
For being the answer to our every question.
Even when we don’t have all the answers,
Remind us of your faithfulness, through thick and thin.
Joe and Shelby have three loveable children: Corbany, Addyson, and Greyson. Through life and ministry in Colorado, Kansas, and Iowa, the Greemores have learned the value of good friendships, hard work, and a deep trust in God’s providence and grace. Joe is an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA serving as pastor at the historic First Baptist Church or Waterloo, Iowa.