Psalms 13:2 (NIV), “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
How much longer?
How much longer? Four hundred fifty-eight days later, not only has my hatred of death not diminished even a little, but I still wrestle with difficult thoughts and a heart of sorrow. The pangs of the sting of death, my terrible enemy, can, at times, celebrate their triumphs over my weakness of the flesh.
Here is one example: The other day, I was rummaging through a box of her clothes and found a sweater vest she used to wear. It still had her scent, strongly so I might add, and suddenly my heart dropped; plunging deep into that inner anguish of soul brought about by this agitation of a wound that seems to refuse to fully heal — maybe it won’t on this side of heaven, I don’t know. But I do know that even 458 days later, I still haven’t learned my lesson about how this horrible wound remains ever tender to the touch. I hate death. O, Lord Jesus, please return for Your, Beloved!
Today does mark 458 days since Heidi (my wife) went home to glory. There is a terrible temptation to keep picking the scab. There is almost something of a kind of pleasure when basking in sadness. At least it feels as if I have some control; however, when the nerves have leveled out, the loneliness can begin to encircle my conscience like those dark clouds in the temple (1 Kings 8:11-2). But unlike the temple, God feels far away. When God’s breakers sweep over me (Ps 42:7), I cannot control them. So, if I can weep, then at least my tears are my company, and my loneliness can take a seat. But this cycle is not sustainable. I fear there may be sin in this cycle. Yes. Probably so. Where is God, you might ask?
Psalms 42:3 (ESV), “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
God is the Heavens, and he does whatever he pleases (Ps 115:3). I wish He was pleased to relieve me of this pain permanently, but if I lose the pain altogether, then that too becomes more loss of her. These pangs are tied exclusively to her, and the tears born from this ache have her name on them. What do I have if I don’t have her or these tears for her? Sometimes it feels like that’s the only thing I have left.
Yet, I know this isn’t true in the strictest sense. I know that if push comes to shove, God is good. But sometimes, it’s hard to see and understand His goodness in the wake of death because day after day, my flesh keeps wanting to ask, how much longer? Genesis 46:4 (ESV), “I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”
Jesus Is With Us
Death is horrible and powerful. Yet something more powerful than death is the goodness of God in its wake. God’s goodness in the wake of death is the reality of His presence with us as we face it. He is present in our hearts (2 Cor 4:6); in our thoughts (Ps 77:11-12); by his Spirit (Eph 2:22); He is present with us as we feed on his Word (John 1:14); as we worship with his people (Ps 68:35); as we sit under the preaching of the gospel (Matt 28:19-20); and as we partake of his Supper (1 Cor 11:26)
Egypt is not our home yet. In a sense, while we dwell here on earth, we are in the proverbial land of Egypt. And so it is not far from any of us, a land of sorrow and despair. Unlike Heaven, Egypt is where we still bury our dead beside the road: Genesis 48;7 (NIV), “As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem).”
Egypt is where God daily bears our burdens. Psalms 68:19 (NIV), “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Part of how He does this is by placing the lonely and afflicted in families (Ps 68:6a), and we see this even today as we are brought into the household of God (Eph 2:19).
When we think of David’s God, who bears burdens, we must also consider David’s Son, our Lord Jesus (Matt 1:1). Jesus invites all who are weary and heavy laden to come to him where He Himself bears our burdens and thereby, in this mighty and merciful act, extend rest.
Mat 11:28-30 ESV, “28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Death is heavy, and the days of grief are burdensome. Our tears that prolong many days afterward prove we can never labor enough to provide rest for our souls. The goodness of God in the wake of death is Jesus himself. Jesus came to Egypt to labor in such a way to provide eternally sustainable rest we could never provide for ourselves.
Jesus’ labor, through his death and resurrection, satisfies the requirements needed to calm the storm of our anxious strivings not only for a right standing with the Father but amid our troubled hearts where sorrow and grief reside for many days longer than our expected timeline. So, while in Egypt, amid troubled thoughts, we must remember Jesus will bring us up out of Egypt because Jesus is with us.
Edward Ruiz is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor serving with Safe Harbor Christian counseling as well as Life Counseling Center Ministries in Maryland. He attends Columbia Presbyterian Church and will begin Seminary with Metro-Baltimore seminary in the summer of 2022. Edward served in the U.S. Army as a Chaplain Assistant 2003-2010 with two Iraq tours. Edward has two dogs, Jagger and Mowgli. Edward enjoys cycling, writing/blogging, teaching the Bible, podcasting, writing Christian hip-hop music, and spending time with his family. Learn more about Edward’s work at https://ccfamilyservices.com/