Thursday, March 24, 2011

Our Loved One

A friend and I were talking the other day about living to be 100. We both agreed that those who reach their centennial year face the challenge of outliving most of their relatives (often including even their children), along with the friends and acquaintances with whom they've lived their lives. It's a difficult scenario to imagine, and as one who performs ministry in retirement communities, I must admit that the prospect is not appealing.

If we could know that God had determined to grant such an extension of the normal span of human life, an opportunity for faith would present itself. We would have to believe that "His way is perfect," and that His glory, our best interests, and the best interests of others in our lives would be fulfilled (II Samuel 22:31). Perhaps most importantly, we would be called to trust and expect that His companionship would fill our hearts as the companionship of our loved ones was progressively lost.

"In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore... He is thy life" (Psalm 16:11; Deuteronomy 30:20).

The truth of the matter is that every legitimate joy and pleasure we have known in human beings has actually been the joy and pleasure of God as expressed through those human beings. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17). Thus, we can lose the presence of people without losing the heart of the blessing they have been to us. Of course, we will mourn the loss of the vessel, and it is not wrong that we do so. Our Lord gives Himself to us through specially chosen family, friends and colleagues who rightly become dear to us as the unique expression of His goodness. Cherishing such ones and missing them when they are gone is the proper and natural fruit of gratitude for the gifts of Christ's goodness our loved ones are to us.

Nevertheless, the born again believer in the Lord Jesus must understand, believe and affirm that God made the depths of our hearts for Himself. He is the joy of our hearts. He is the peace of our hearts. He is the fulfillment of our hearts. He is the companion who can and would fill and fulfill us in a centennial year of aloneness no less than in the days when the presence of loved ones abounded. This we must believe with all our hearts and every fiber of our being. Our Loved One is with and within us forevermore. Having Him, we have all the joy, peace and wonder of relationship necessary to fill this moment - and all to come - with the exultation of the Psalmist...

"Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee. Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips when I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches. Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice." (Psalm 63:3-7)

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