My Dear Children,
Very few people understand death. Most are afraid of it. Many try to ignore it. Hardly anyone wants to talk about it. But God wants you to understand it. Your friend, Johnny, does too. And neither God nor Johnny wants you to be scared.
Many think death is when you go to sleep. They are wrong. Death is when you finally wake up. Death is when you see what God has seen all along.
I want you to think about something for me. Think about newborn babies, so tiny and fresh and new! Imagine what has just happened to them. They have just left one place and entered another. Only a few hours ago, each one of them was in their momma’s tummy. They were safe. They were warm. They had all they could eat. All they had to do was sleep. And then suddenly, they were pushed into a strange world that they had never seen before.
Let’s imagine you could speak to one of these infants before he was born. What if you told him what was about to happen? What if you said, “In a few minutes you are going to leave this place. Your time in here is about up. Isn’t that exciting? Before you know it, you will be in a room full of friendly people. There will be new lights and noises and smells…”
“I don’t want to go,” the baby might say. “I like it here. Besides I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
“What are a park and a bath? None of that sounds good to me. I like it right here.”
“But it’s dark in there,” you’d say. “It’s crowded and cramped. Don’t worry. You’ll be glad you came out.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” the baby would say. “I’m happy where I am. I want to just stay right here.”
“You don’t have a choice,” you’d gently explain. “I’m just telling you ahead of time so that you’ll know. You are going to leave this place soon, and it’s going to be okay!”
Do you know why I had you imagine that silly scenario? It’s because there will come a time in life when you (like that baby) will have to make a journey. Just like the baby has to leave the tummy and enter this world, there comes a time for each of us to leave this world and enter into eternity.
And most people don’t want to go. We act like that little baby we imagined still in his Momma’s tummy. We like it where we are. This world may not be perfect, but at least it’s familiar, and we don’t want to leave. And maybe we don’t want anyone we love to leave this world either.
I believe that if you were with Johnny right now, he would want to talk to you. He would say something like this. “Hey guys, it’s about time for me to leave this world. It’ll soon be my turn to go and be with God in Heaven. I don’t want you to be afraid. I’m not. It’s almost my time now and I accept that. It’s okay to be sad, but don’t be angry; don’t be scared. God knows what He’s doing.”
You know what else I imagine Johnny might tell you? “I will miss you, but if you know Jesus like I do, then we won’t be separated very long. Someday your time will come to leave. And when it’s your time, I want you to know I’ll be waiting for you. I’ll be in heaven when you get there, along with others you know who’ve lived for Jesus and have gone on to a better life. I’ll be one of those proud people standing there to greet you. And beside me will by our Heavenly Father. We’ll be waiting.”
Remember what we’ve learned together, kids? God has given each of us a mortal body and an immortal spirit – a body that will one day decay and a spirit that will last forever. And Johnny’s spirit, when it is loosed from his earthly body, will be more alive than ever before because it will be in Heaven with his Creator, free from the weight of sin and this world. And this, my dear children, is the secret of death. Death is when you finally wake up. Death is when you see what God has seen all along.
Let’s talk about the questions you still have. I love you and I want you to understand. Death and dying is a part of life on this earth and I don’t want you to be afraid of it. Johnny isn’t and we shouldn’t be either.
I wrote this letter to my 5 young children when we learned that the time their friend Johnny had left on this earth was very short. He courageously battled brain cancer for eleven months and in that time we had talked about death several times. This letter was one more way for me to try to help them understand what it really meant for Johnny’s life on this earth to be over. Johnny made his entrance into heaven two years ago this week, and in reality, it is when his life was really just beginning.
No matter who you are or how old you are, your body will not last forever but your spirit will. Unless you’ve accepted the free gift of salvation from the God of the universe, the gift that comes to us – not because of anything we have done or can ever do, but because He loves us with a crazy, undeserved love – unless you’ve accepted the death of the perfect God-man, Jesus, in your place, your spirit will not go on to Heaven. Yes – your spirit will live forever… but not with Johnny and not with his God.
For those of us who know God and worship Him alone, we have an adventurous goal for this temporary life. It was the unspoken goal of our young friend, Johnny the Brave. Our goal is to glorify God on earth by loving Him and doing what He commands, to accept His plan for our life (no matter what that plan includes) in order to make Him renowned throughout the land. Until we see him again, I think Johnny would charge each of us in this same vein – to live all of this life for God on earth, knowing that we’ll also live with God in Heaven.
If you are unsure of the destination of your forever spirit, I know that Johnny would encourage you to do what he has done. Read God’s letter to you – the Holy Scriptures. There you will find the answers for the purpose of life…yes, even the purpose of hardship. It is what Johnny’s family has done for years and years. It is how they can say that although they are hard pressed on every side, they are not crushed. Though they are perplexed, they are not in despair. They do not lose heart. They instead choose to fix their eyes on what is unseen – the eternal (II Cor.4). You, too, can be sure of the eternal, the unseen. You can live (and die) with the same assurance of this courageous eight year old boy. You, too, can know the secret of death. Death is when you finally wake up. Death is when you see what God has seen all along.
Life is such a short journey. Eternity is forever. When I think about Matthew 5:12, I think about Johnny. “Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven,” when you will finally be able to see what God has seen all along! I am looking forward to that day, too.
If you have any questions, I’d love to talk to you about them, friend.
Just last week, another courageous saint ‘woke up’.
He left this life on earth and went to his heavenly home.
He and his beautiful wife have been blogging about their journey
through life with cancer. You will be encouraged to read their testimony
at www.rkprudhomme.blogspot.com (Living in High Definition).