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Guest blogger: Jim Quigley

March 18, 2014 by Jim Quigley 0 comments

Posted in: Death

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:

‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
(1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

I have really appreciated the sermon series on suffering and hearing all the testimonies in regards to how my brothers and sisters in Christ are undergoing, enduring, or have persevered through sufferings and trials. It has served as a glorious reminder that God can allow our suffering to happen and then use it to conform us more into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. This series has also showed that God can use our suffering in order to comfort and encourage others who are also undergoing trials and tribulations. It paints a beautiful image of how the Church is to be united as one body, working together to serve and help one another in our times of need.

The suffering that I have endured has been nothing in comparison to that which others in the congregation have faced. But I felt led to share in the hopes that it will be a comfort and encouragement to someone.

In my 28 shorts years of life, I have experienced my fair share of death. My grandfather (on my mother’s side) died when my mom was only a teenager. While I obviously never had direct contact with him, it still brings some sadness to my heart to have never met the man whom my mom remembers so fondly and, with tearful eyes, tells me how much she wishes he were alive to meet and love his grandchildren. My other grandfather (on my father’s side) died, and his funeral was actually on my birthday. Only a few short years after my grandpa’s passing, my uncle (my dad’s brother) got diagnosed with esophageal cancer (cancer of the esophagus). This was a huge shock since his nickname was “the Terminator” because he was built like Arnold Schwarzenegger. He fought valiantly, and beat the first two waves of cancer. But the third round saw the cancer spread to his brain and at the young age of 55, my Uncle Dave died, leaving behind a wife, four daughters and one grandchild.

Not less than a year after this, my grandmother (my dad’s mother) started to deteriorate more and more. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s for a few years at this point, but the disease was causing a rapid decline in her mental and physical well-being. For those who have not experienced the sting and pain of Alzheimer’s, I can only say that I believe it is the cruelest, most painful form of death. It robs your loved one of their personality and their memories, and it their place is a shell of the person that you loved so dearly. It brought tremendous pain to see the Grandma who would cook large meals for her 24 grandchildren diminished to a frail woman with a perpetual glazed over look on her face. It brought much sadness to visit her in the nursing home where she would ask my dad and me who we were. And then thirty seconds later having to answer the same question as to who we were. My grandmother’s condition rapidly declined and she passed away 1-2 years after my Uncle Dave died.

It was around this time that my other uncle (my dad’s other brother) also got diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He fought cancer as well, but ultimately died from it at the age of 63, leaving behind a wife, six children, and five grandchildren.

About a year or two after my uncle’s passing, my other grandma (my mom’s mom) suffered a stroke. She thankfully recovered, but it was so painful to see the spunky Italian grandma who came on a boat to America nearly 100 years ago, who was full of life and vitality, suffer such a blow to her physical health. She was partially paralyzed on one side, among other physical affects from the stroke, and she was never the same again. She suffered another stroke, and eventually had to go into a nursing home. The lively grandma that I had known was so different and it was painful to see how the strokes crippled her health. It was not too long after being admitted into the nursing home that my grandma died.

To lose all your grandparents in such a short period of time is tough, but to add two uncles as well, added to the suffering. I would love to say that my dealings with death had briefly ended after that, but unfortunately it did not. My sister became pregnant, but sadly, after 3-4 months, it became evident that the unborn child had a rare disease that affected the normal growth of the baby’s organs. She lost the baby as a result. Thankfully, she was eventually able to have a child, but her attempt to have a second child yielded the same result as the first. She lost a second baby due to this rare (and now the doctor’s think, genetic) disease. Seeing the anguish and pain that my sister and brother-in-law endured through the loss of those two unborn children brought great pain to my heart as well.

What this sermon series has really reminded me of is the hope that we have in the midst of our suffering. I cling firmly to the hope that Day when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4). On that Day when we will never have to deal with the loss of loved ones though cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or strokes, or old age, or rare diseases, or anything. On that Day, we will joyfully sing “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). On that Day we will surround the throne of God and lay our crowns at His feet praising and adoring His heavenly name. We will cry out from our hearts and sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come" (Revelation 4:8). On that Day we will be free from our sinful nature that craves to be self-centered and receive the praise for ourselves. We will finally be free to glorify God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength. Our desire to worship our Lord purely, which we fall miserably short of, will finally be a reality on that Day. This is the hope that I remind myself of. That death is not the end of the story. There will be a day when there will be no more suffering, or death, or pain. In its place will be eternal joy and ecstasy in praising and worshiping the Lord of lords, the King of kings, our blessed Savior and Redeemer, our Abba. While it may be hard to feel joyous in the midst of our suffering, my prayer is that it would give you (and me) the hope to persevere though it.

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