Every human breath has permission behind it… from God. None of us would be able to draw the next one, were it not for his go-ahead.
Our newborn twins in England took their first breaths 40 minutes apart, 48 hours ago. Although Thomas and Evelyn’s little lungs were ready to breathe while still nestled inside Katy, God made sure they didn’t try it too soon, a dangerous risk in their unborn, watery world. But as they were born, I believe their Creator moved each of them to take their first draw of earthly air.
It works the same at the end of life. I’ll never forget having my hand on Nate’s chest as he took those last three breaths before he arrived at his divinely-appointed moment to stop breathing, not one breath too few, not one too many. God says “start”, and he also says “finish”.
This weekend Nate’s brother Ken and I met in the Chicago area to attend the wake and funeral of their first cousin, Merrilyn. Although she’s battled cancer for seven years, in recent weeks she took a sudden negative turn when doctors found cancer in new places, and this time she succumbed.
Merrilyn’s life was full to overflowing with crowds of loving people, and she responded in kind. Her daughters, struggling to maintain composure behind the church pulpit today, shared of their best-friend relationship with their mom and the crushing blow it will be to continue life without her.
Among the pastor’s comments was the fact that Merrilyn was a master gardener: “As she tended her gardens, she also tended her relationships. She planted flowers with her children and then her grandchildren, teaching the uniqueness and value of each plant and transferring those principles to the people in her life.”
Merrilyn’s husband “offered the gift of a song” in his wife’s honor, singing with eyes closed and passion strong as he sang and played his guitar:
“If not for you
My sky would fall.
Rain would gather, too.
Without your love I’d be nowhere at all.
Oh! What would I do
If not for you?”
As he sang, I looked around at those struggling to come to terms with Merrilyn’s death, watching them weep. And I seethed with anger that evil Satan has gotten away with bringing death into God’s once-perfect world. Was the devil laughing at those who were crying today? Such a thing is detestable, but probable.
We had our own weapon, however, to fight back today. The funeral service was dominated by multiple Scripture passages, 13 to be precise. And what we heard refutes everything Satan stands for:
“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”
“I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
“The eternal God will drive out your enemy before you saying, ‘Destroy him’!”
“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”
Buried in Merrilyn’s name is the word “merry”, which means full of cheerfulness and joyous in disposition. That was Merrilynn. Through a life of unnumbered hopes dashed, including a cancer that wouldn’t quit, she never lost her merry heart. And though a body becomes useless and eventually loses to death, because of what we read in Scripture, death can be instantly followed by new life in Christ that will last throughout eternity.
”Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)