Elijah begged for death. He threw a tantrum. He pouted. He quit. He ran away. He had depression. Don’t believe me? Read I Kings 19. He was a broken man, shattered on the sin of others after thinking he had finally found glory on earth. After thinking he had finally won… only to be shown that his life was in even more danger than before.
And that depression-laced man… that man who longed for death, that broken, sad man… that is the man that God chose to take right to heaven without ever dying. (II Kings 2)
But when I leave, I want to go out like Elijah: with a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire.
I have seen death. Perhaps more than anyone not in a medical field, pastors are best acquainted with death.
The only thing that didn’t bring her peace: She knew that her children had rejected Jesus. Her last prayer was for them. But for her? She rested only in what Jesus did for her. I want to go like that: in peace, falling asleep, knowing that I will open my eyes to see my Savior. And now she sings in glory.
This one was near panic. It was a tricky surgery; she might not come out alive. I tell her how her story ends: Jesus died for her. There is no need to fear. I think I will need someone to remind me, to point me to Jesus. Even if I don’t strictly need it, it is so good to have someone remind you of those big truths: That Jesus died, that Jesus lives, that because he lives, I too will live.
He shakes his head. “Pastor, I’m ready. It’s like that prayer: Come quickly, Lord Jesus. I’m just scared for my wife. Who will take care of her when I’m gone?” I remind him that all the promises Jesus made to him, he’s made to her, too. Just as Jesus promised to him, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you,” he’s made that promise to his wife. No fear. I pray I learn that lesson when the time comes; that while Jesus uses my service, when the time comes, he will raise another to serve where I leave.
And today… I never knew that an entire face could be smile wrinkles. She’s so small in that hospital bed. Her eyes are slow. And yet, she confesses: “Yes. Jesus died for all my sins.” We hold hands and talk about what is coming for her. She thanks me for coming… but it is she who has encouraged me today. Her family gushes thanks… but I shake my head. They don’t get it.
This is God’s gift to me.
Yes, it is so awesome that God uses me to share his blessings with others. To tell others what awaits them? That their sins have been taken away? That the light that comes is something they never earned, but is theirs anyway? Oh, that blessing shatters any sense of self-righteousness I could have. To bring the message to saints and sinners is more than I could ever live up to.
But to see the death of the saints… An old professor of mine said that we were like the ushers, showing the way into the theater… we walk people to their seats, and while we don’t get to see the movie yet, we get to guide others on the way.
To hold hands with a woman as we await Jesus together, to pray with that man, “Come, Lord Jesus!” … I cannot struggle to explain that majesty, like sitting at the bottom of the mountain, and seeing the glory above, while others climb ahead of me. I do not see the angels coming to carry them Home. I do not perceive the glory where they are now… I see only the weakness of the empty body, but I know, I know where they are now.
And then I look at me. Stupid, broken me. A cracked jar – yes, with real treasure inside, not put there by me. Treasure that shows through because of how shattered I am. Struggling with depression. Ready to walk away after one hard day. Discouraged by so little. I am not as strong as I think I am.
What a God is this? That he died for me? And not only that – he allows me to hold saints by the hand and remind them that he died for them?
What a God is this – that he builds a mansion for me? That I am not just an usher to the house of God… but that I myself will sit with the saints in glory, and that this woman will once more take my hand, and we will laugh together?
There are so many saints that God loved. There are so many saints that suffered. And it was Elijah… Elijah! The prophet that thought he was the last! The prophet that begged for death! The prophet that refused to learn! It was that prophet that God chose to take to heaven without death.
That’s my God. That’s my Jesus… the one who loves broken people like me.