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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Letter of Comfort

Dear Betsy,

When my wife, blessed Marion, died, yes, I had grief, but joy at the same time. I was in the Chattanooga Eye Institute when I got a message from our oldest daughter that Marion only had hours to live. Debbie has her BSN degree from Bob Jones University, so she spent the night with Marion. During the night, Marion had thrown up several times. Also, she had to have her oxygen turned up to the hospital maximum, but that still wasn't enough. She was gasping for breath. Marion was always in a hurry. When Debbie told her that she was shortly going to go into the presence of our Lord, she replied: "How long will that take?"

As I drove to the hospital, 2 Corinthians 5:1–8, (especially verse 8) came to my mind: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." What is it like to be in the presence of the Lord? Psalm 16:11 says: "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." I meditated on the fact that only moments after her death, Marion would have the joy of looking on the Lord Jesus who died and rose again for her and interceded for her ever since she accepted Him as her Savior. She would see in His face infinite love and experience the fullness of joy that passes understanding! She would be in His presence, not only with joy, but also see our parents in that heavenly home that Jesus went to prepare and Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5.

As I drove and thought about these promises, I had to shout to the Lord: "Thank you, thank you!" for the experience she was about to have! As the Apostle Paul said: in Philippians 1:20-26: "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I know not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better; nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again."

For the faithful that hold these promises and have this prospect, death is something to look forward to, especially if we have exercised a good stewardship in this life. To me the greatest reward and blessing possible will be to hear from the lips of my beloved Savior himself: "… Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matt. 25:21). With this steadfast hope, my former executive officer in Viet Nam, who credited my testimony as instrumental to leading him to faith, said to me that death was what he looked forward to and was more exciting than jumping out of an airplane. (He had been in Special Forces!)

I didn't feel deep sorrow that she died, but rejoiced that the Lord felt that her life had fulfilled the purpose for which He called her. Years ago at the funeral of a pastor's wife, she wanted the Hallelujah Chorus played at the conclusion of her funeral. For she wanted not sadness there, but a note of triumph! Therefore, after I preached Marion's funeral message and eulogy, and my concluding words were to her, as it was at my parents’ funeral: "See you in the rapture!” (1 Thess. 4:13–18). Then, as she requested, the Hallelujah Chorus was played at the conclusion of her funeral, also.

Yes, I shed tears, especially in the funeral home after I put a Bible and my wedding band into her lifeless hands. After all, I loved her and our life together was over. Now, while she is living in that spiritual body prepared for her and all believers (2 Cor. 5:1–4), she is having a great time in Heaven with our Lord and her loved ones that have gone before. I am still here laboring to fulfill His mission for me to be fruitful in serving Him and edifying the body of Christ. She is out of her pain and sicknesses and into a place of peace and joy.

I believe that you believe all these Scripture promises, but nursing Joe through so many sicknesses, and continually being concerned about whether he was going to die has shaped your emotions and kept you from experiencing the joy of faith that has comforted me. Also, your love that made you so faithful in caring for him and others, you are depleted and left with a great void and emptiness. I believe that you will be comforted as you picture the comfort what I have experienced and shared in this letter. Rejoice in Joe's joy in the Lord's presence and for all the other believing loved ones that have gone ahead. It will give you peace. Then, you can press on in the callings that the Lord has given you.

Oh, there was a time that I wept like a baby. It was after the memorial service for about fifty of the men that our battalion had lost during Tet Offensive of '68 in Vietnam, and later. I had no assurance about many of them being born again, and it broke my heart. I wept also because I knew that fully forty per cent of those that died, while in Vietnam, did so because someone had not done their duty. I especially grieved for a Southern Baptist boy who lost his faith reading the book, The Passover Plot, and for the medic that wen back to get some of the supplies he had left behind after treating a wounded GI. He me an enemy soldier who shot him down, even thought he was unarmed.

As I told a widow Katy, a great soul winner, who had a pancreatic cancer operation which she wasn't supposed to survive: rejoice! For the Lord still has something for you to do. Shortly, another lady called Katy, who also had only had a short time to live, heard her testimony, and Katy was able to lead her to Christ. Therefore, Betsy, lay these promises God gave me for my comfort to heart by picturing what Heaven is like for Joe and the others, and rejoice that the Lord has given you opportunity to bear more fruit for Him, either in leading more people to Christ or in some other way to bear fruit for Him and look forward to His saying to you: "Well, done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord!" Christian philosophy is good, but God's promises are infinitely better!

In Christian love, and hope that this long letter will give you the comfort that I have!

Ed Lundwall

P.S. Read Proverbs 3:5, 6 and Romans 8:28, 29 in the New American Standard that says: "God works all things to our good..." Also, 2 Corinthians 1:3–9 characterized what I have been trying to do for you and you can do for others as you accept this comfort.

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