My sister Mary died a gruesome death from Lupus at the tender age of 15, in 1973. She was born in 1958.
Almost fifty years later, the pain of her loss still brings tears to my eyes and a sob to my soul. I was 13 when she passed away and lost my closest friend. It was, and remains, a horrible memory of devastation and loss.
Most of us have lost loved ones, and if you live long enough, all of us will lose someone we love; their parting will bring such anguish into our lives that, at times, will be unbearable.
Mary’s story is a tragic one. The last nine months or so of her young life were unspeakably brutal as this deadly disease ravaged her body; words cannot adequately describe her suffering. Almost fifty years later it is still impossible for me to comprehend it, the unfairness of it all, the devastating loss of losing my closest and best friend; a scar I bear to this day.
But faith brings hope of reconciliation with those loved ones who have already departed and left this world and the often brutality of life. I wonder if perhaps Mary was given the better lot; she was spared so much of the horrors that living on Earth often brings to those who are destined to bear its agonies and cruelties. Certainly she bore her own unique hell as this cruel disease ravaged her young body, but who can say if what she may have faced later in life seemed—in comparison—even more agonizing against her unbelievable sufferings from Lupus?
One of the many reasons I must reject atheism is that it offers no hope of eventual reconciliation with our departed loved ones. This fact alone makes atheism untenable to me and most people who long and yearn to be reunited with those who have passed before us.
Atheism is a cruel belief system that robs all people of the hope that the afterlife will bring meaning and closure to the untimely death of those whom we have lost. It makes death, unbelievable as this might seem, worse and crueler than it already is.
Are you familiar with the song “I can only imagine”? And if you have listened to the song, do you know the story behind it? Stephanie Gray, a pro-life advocate who I have worked with, writes this on her blog after she lost her first child to miscarriage:
“It tells the true story of musician Bart Millard who wrote MercyMe’s song, I Can Only Imagine. Bart had been brutally abused by his father growing up, but before his father’s death his dad became a Christian and reconciled with his son. After his dad’s death, Bart composed, ‘Surrounded by Your glory, What will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in your presence, Or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.'”
I urge you to watch the Youtube video above because it shows, throughout it, various people looking through empty picture frames and also holding up pictures of their departed loved ones. Part of the message is that, for believers in Christ, we have the blessed hope of one day being reconciled with our departed loved ones.
I’ve talked to many atheists throughout my life, especially on college and university campuses where I seek to minister to them. Being young, many have not yet had to face the sting and agony of death; therefore, they carry with them an arrogant, know-it-all attitude that evolution is true and a belief in the afterlife is nonsense.
Some of them, when I ask, “What happens to you when you die?” will reply with a dismissive, “Worm food. We become worm food.” They deceive themselves they are being so clever when they spout such shallow foolishness.
Being pampered Americans who have been spared the brutalities of life in general, and death in particular, they parrot quaint phrases they picked up from late night philosophical dorm parties or from listening to atheist professors who mock and denigrate the Christian faith and hope in a resurrection.
I long to see Mary again and believe with all my soul that she is waiting up in heaven for our eventual reunion. Could I be wrong in this belief? Yes, I certainly can, because like the atheist who believes we all become worm food when we die, I’ve never been to heaven nor met anyone who has; I simply have faith in the words of Jesus:
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
I can only imagine…