Death’s Sting Is Right Here And It Hurts Like Hell

On December 26th of last year, just hours after my wife, her family and I went to sleep on Christmas night, we awoke to devastating, life-altering news. My wife’s 23 year old brother, Jordan, had lost his life. This came less than a year after my wife’s Aunt Cathy and Uncle Mark lost their 20 year old son, Carson.

As a kid, I lost a few older family members, but when I became an adult and close family and friends started to pass away, I began to process these experiences based on what I knew about God and faith.

One question I kept coming back to was this: If we believe that we will see our loved ones again someday, if we believe that all of eternity will make life on earth seem short, like the blink of an eye, if death truly is a “see you later” rather than “goodbye,” then why do we grieve so deeply; why does it hurt so badly? This can be especially troubling

when you consider that in his letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul asked “Where, oh death, is your sting?”

Where, oh death, is your sting?!?! IT’S RIGHT HERE! THE STING IS RIGHT HERE AND IT HURTS LIKE HELL!

The morning that Jordan died, we all gathered at my wife’s grandparents’ house. We originally thought that we would be celebrating Christmas together, as the 25th hadn’t worked out for everyone.  Instead, we spent the day grieving.  It was good for us to be together; we cried, talked and gave hugs. Mark and Cathy were there and were a distinct comfort to all of us, especially my in-laws. At one point Cathy said “I know that Carson is with Jesus now, and that he’s okay, and not hurting, but I don’t care. I want him here with me,” and I thought- “That’s it! That’s why it hurts so badly.” Because even though we may have great faith, even though at some point this life may seem like a distant memory, right now it is not.  Right now the minutes pass slowly and 40, 60, or 80 years without people we love feels like such a very long time; it feels like forever.

God never intended for us to be stoic supermen and women void of human emotions, or even worse, live some kind of Stepford Wife existence in which we are happy and smiling in the midst of our hearts being ripped out, all because of some misplaced notion that God is exalted by horrific tragedies.

So for now, I trust that Paul knew what he was talking about, and perhaps someday I will understand it on a deeper level. But today I’m comforted by Jesus himself. I remember that when Lazarus, Jesus’s close friend, “the one [he] loved so very much,” had died, Jesus wept. It’s almost as if we hear Jesus  thinking “Wow, that does hurt.” He wasn’t just crying, he was weeping. Weeping is more than tears, it’s deeper, it’s ugly, your whole body convulses. It is the outward manifestation of what is going on inside the heart.

That image is important, because if I can see Jesus weeping there in front of Lazarus’s tomb, then it’s easier to see him weeping with me, with us.

Your thoughts?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

21 thoughts on “Death’s Sting Is Right Here And It Hurts Like Hell

  1. Very insightful stuff brother, very thought provoking growing up i was taught that we would see our loved ones when we pass into our eternal life. This also gave me a little “kick” into a question i struggle to find the answer to… God has a plan for everyone, why was my plan meant to be the way it is why am i the one to go through the trials and tribulations i have why not the easy, glamorous one? But then i read this blog and if anything maybe we were put here to comfort, help, maybe even encourage others to cherish the time with our loved ones and maybe instead of wandering about or plan, why not help someone struggling in their plan. Not a very wordy man, just wanna say i like ur page and cant wait for ur next blog .

    •  @AaronLangford So good to hear from you. Good word, I think the way we’ve been taught about God’s blue print for us has been hard to swallow in some ways, because like you said we spend more time trying to figure it out rather than living it.Thanks for the encouragement! I want to know more about what’s going on in your life, but I’ll save that for facebook.

  2. I have found these to be the most profoundly life-changing moments: when we have to reevaluate our cerebral theology because of how our real-life bodies are affected by the real-life forces at work in the world. I’m so glad I found your blog – I appreciate this stuff.

    • @charity jill
      First, thank you so much for your kind words! I look forward to your thoughts in the future.
      God has a way of putting our beliefs about himself through a gauntlet, so that we can see if they come out of the other end in tact. It’s kind of a refining in a way. Sometimes maybe the theology wasn’t good so I didn’t stand the test, but other times the theology comes back so much more meaningful because it moves from being textbook theory to ruggedly authentic.
      I checked out your blog. It’s fun, especially the visit back to old school Christian hardcore & ska!
       

  3. Hi there,
    I saw you just started following me on twitter, so I came here to check you out. Your post hits the nail on the head – it does hurt like hell! And weeping is very messy. Convulsing, gut-wrenching, on the floor in fetal position messy. I too have found comfort over the years in story of Jesus and Lazarus. I pray that you and your wife are finding comfort for your grief in each other. As the first anniversary of Carson’s death approaches, I pray your family can hold tightly to one another. 
    jana @ jana’s three dresses

    •  @janas3dresses I’m so glad you found the blog. It’s easy for us to not pay attention to the weeping in the verse, but it’s a big deal for so many reasons. Thank you for your prayers, healing is a long process. 
      I hope you keep reading. Thanks again!

  4. There is so much truth here.  I remember Kate’s words which carried us all through the first of this terrible and deadly yet beautiful and communal year, “We do not grieve without hope.”
     
    Christ is with us, and He gathers us to each other.  That is the most comfort I’ll ever receive.  

  5. Great stuff! I think the hurt is goes even deeper than we know. Back in the garden we were created to live forever. We were never ment to die. Our sin however brought death into our world. Death hurts so bad because we weren’t created for it. Death is an enemy, an enemy that we brought upon ourselves. We weren’t made for death or to handle it emotionally. Death is horrible. When someone we knows dies we cry out from the depth of our sole knowing that something is wrong with the whole picture; knowing that we weren’t ment to die. Yet, God subjected himself to our broken humanity. He came as perfect flesh into a fallen world so that he could break the eternal sting of death, not the emotional one. I know that God is exalted in tragedy. Just look at the cross, when God Himself died. Isn’t that the most horrific tragedy of all time, God dead? Yet, God was greatly exalted and glorified through that pain. We can suffer though pain because we have a God who knows pain beter than we do. We should mourn harder than anyone knowing that death is wrong. But we should be comforted knowing that God is making all things new and death won’t be around forever.

    •  @JohnRyanSeaman “Death is an enemy” is so right. I think so often when we talk about death we say that, death = being with God, and so we should rejoice in it. There’s a place for that talk, but we also need to be reminded that death is the enemy. 
       
      I may be picking this apart too much, and I may be opening a can of worms, but we may disagree concerning God being exalted in tragedy. If I can share something that I’ve been working through lately; I think God turns around tragedy and uses it for his glory, but I don’t think he finds glory in the tragedy itself. When our loved ones die before their time, when children are raped, and when thousands are killed by planes flying through the twin towers, I believe that the only thing for God to do that is consistent with the picture of him we see on the cross, is to mourn the tragedy, to be broken hearted with us. 

      •  @beardonabike  @JohnRyanSeaman  I agree with you. God does morn. I believe that he is the only who can truly morn because he knows what this world can be like. Not only has He seen it in perfection, but he made it that way. God being glorified in tragedy isn’t so black on white. Bad things happen = God glorified. It is more like a sun set or a piece of art. God is glorified not in the bad things themselves but in the contrast that tragedy brings between perfection/wholeness and a sinful fallen world. A sunset or a painting would be dole, boring, and incomplete without the contrast of light and dark. In the same way, how would we be able to know all of God and how deep his love for us is unless we had the contrast of evil and holiness.  Elizabeth Bennet wouldn’t have know how much Mr. Darcy  truly loved her unless he was given the opportunity to payoff Mr. Wickham and save her family from shame. In the same way we would have never know how much God loves us and what He was willing to do for us unless there was evil that He subjected himself to. I don’t know if that helps but it has helped me a lot in understanding God and his glory. And I dont’ think you are opening a can of worms. =)

        •  @JohnRyanSeaman That nuance is important. I’m not exactly sure what I think about the contrast idea. I’m apprehensive because I think that there is a theology out there whose logical conclusion is: God is responsible for tragedies and finds glory in them. I think the contrast theory has been used to justify it. I’m saying you are believing that, it’s the reason I’m leery. 
          I’m still working on it. 

        •  @JohnRyanSeaman This will be a grammar and spelling-judgement free zone, mostly because mine can be atrocious. 

  6. I have gone through a lot of different stages in losing Lucy, and while my anger with God has passed it still hurts that he gets to know her right now while we will spend the rest of our lives waiting to find out who she is. Every precious thing the boys do, while it makes me smile on the outside, aches when I think of all the bits of Lucy we will never see. Yet I know that some day, when our lives here are over, RJ, the boys, and I will live with Jesus and our Father like Lucy does, and we will know her perfectly, and our family will be whole, and all of this waiting in between will be a flash. That doesn’t mean I don’t still go around feeling bruised most days, but we can keep going, because we know that’s not the last word.

    •  @addielore How good it will be to know that sweet girl some day. I don’t pretend to know your hurt, but you said it best, it is not the last word. 

  7. Having losing my sister 12.5 years ago, I have had to learn to live without understanding why.  Jesus weeping was the greatest comfort I found.  There are times, especially around life changing events, I feel like weeping as though the sting still lingers.  I may not any longer be pursuing why, but I merely miss her smile and laughter.  God soothes my “weeping storm” as He quietens me with His love and rejoices over me in singing.   Thoughts and prayers are with you all.  

    •  @ToniHernandez Having to learn to live without understanding why, is a big key. When people try to come up with reasons for tragedy, we often come up with ideas that are at best unhelpful, and at worse damaging to the way we view God. Phillip Yancey is the best in my opinion when it comes to writing on loss and tragedy in his book “Disappointment with God”. It’s refreshingly honest and deep.

  8. Addie came home last night and told me a story she had heard in her Mark class about a boy who was being hanged for stealing. He was so little that he wasn’t heavy enough to die, and he hanged for hours. Someone in the crowd asked where God was in something like this, and the answer is, He’s right there with him.Addie’s prof. talked about how Mark probably first just wrote the Passion story, then added the rest later. Mark was the only gospel that started out saying this is the gospel (good news) and then it is pretty dark, and it doesn’t really end on a good note. They think the original writing ended with the angel telling the women to go tell the others, but the women didn’t because they were scared. So the Gospel of Mark, his Good News, was mainly that Christ suffered. He suffered for us, and he is with us now, even through our suffering.I don’t know all of the details of what they talked about, but I do know that sometimes, that Good News is all I can stand to here. Because sometimes, the suffering is all I can see. Even when I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, or If I can’t recognize the silver lining, Christ is still right here, and that is good news.Sometimes, when something is going on, others will try to tell you the good side of things, or how things will eventually get better. Sometimes it helps to comfort, but often, in the moment, it doesn’t. We don’t want to hear how it will get better. We don’t want to hear how it could be worse. The only thing we need is someone there with us. 

  9. Thanks for this post, Shane. I have been thinking about death quite a lot lately (ask Melissa) mainly because over the last year we lost three grandparents in the space of eight months, one of which was very unexpected (and also Carson and Jordan, which though they were not family, losing them impacted me). And then my beautiful son came into the world in the middle of all of this, and I’ve had a terribly hard time thinking that he is subject to the same enemy that took our loved ones. Life has felt more raw, vulnerable, and fleeting to me this year than ever before. Related to those I’ve lost, I think my deep down question has been, how could they be there one day (with everything you love about them), and then it’s all just gone? And only because their body gave out? How pointless it seems. Aren’t they so much more than a lump of flesh?
     
    And then when I think about my son, he is so new, lovely, and sweet, and has no idea what death is. I will probably be there for him when he finds out that people can die, just as my parents were for me. I remember being seven or eight and realizing that people die, and laying awake for hours crying when I made the connection that if people die, that means my parents will die too.
     
    One thing that all this thinking of death has done is made me realize how much the Bible does say about death, all the passages that were there but I ignored them because I was younger and didn’t have occasion to think about death as much. Not only are these all over the Old Testament (man is grass), but I would say death is a huge focal point (if not the focal point) of the work of Christ’s life. I consider this passage from Hebrews chapter 2:
     
    “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
     
    Three big things stick out from this passage that tell me that God really, really cares about these thoughts I’ve been having:
     
    1. He became human so he could go through death. And defeat it.
    2. The devil has the power of death (death is not from God).
    3. Fear of death leads to slavery.
     
    That last point is the turning point for me. Death should not cause us to shrink back, become risk averse, and try to preserve our lives. That is called slavery to the fear of death. Rather, the work of Christ frees us from the fear of death, and we can boldly do what God has set before us. I don’t really know how to end this comment because it’s an ongoing struggle for me to understand death, and to see how I should be living in light of it. Anyways, thank you for broaching the topic of death on your blog, it’s probably not a way to become a top blog, but I respect you for it.

  10. I lost my daughter two years ago. She was our only child. She was disabled all her life, helpless physically, though mentally she was as smart as anyone. She was a real joy, though her handicaps were difficult to deal with. It was like a light went out in our house. It feels empty and though I know she is with Jesus and I know she is now free of her disability and safe (I used to worry what would happen if I died first), I still miss her so very much. I cared for her every day of her life, bathed her, brushed her hair, fed her, rubbed her feet, kissed her, hugged her, played with her, read to her, sang to her, joked with her and now, there is a huge hole and my fingers long to touch her. Believe me, I have been to the place where I wanted to die to be with her. Jesus is healing me and helping me through, but I am glad he understands the huge hole in my heart. And, mercifully, he lets me be with her in dreams.

Comments are closed.