Beginning of End

Last week I journeyed with a dear friend in the few remaining days of her life. To me, she was a great sister, servant and saint.

After she had resolutely decided not to seek further treatment I visited her everyday in the hospice until she finally stepped into the glorious presence of our Lord.

For seven days I saw her condition deteriorating. She struggled with extreme discomfort. She hardly slept. She didn’t eat at all. Meals were brought in and carted away untouched. She had great difficulty breathing. Coughing frequently because of the phlegm forming in her throat.

It saddens me to see her in that state.

I was very disheartened that her life should end with such agonizing discomfort. I even entertained the thought, “Why God she has to bear such painful discomfort? She lived well. She served You well. Surely she deserved an ending like Enoch or Elijah or any of those who died peacefully and painlessly.”

And God spoke to me in the Scripture passages I read to her during her wakeful moments. One of these is II Corinthians 5:1-10.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

The Bible reminds us our human body is like an earthly tent. It is temporal and not intended to sustain us forever. A tent is not a permanent building. It will eventually wear out through usage, tattered by age and the effects of the natural elements.

And one day, it will be taken down after having served its purpose. But thank God, there awaits for us “an eternal house in house, not built by human hands.” “Meanwhile we groan” with the physical pain and changes, longing for our heavenly dwelling. “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened.”

Beginning of EndA picture came to mind – that of a butterfly in the cocoon. She struggles in the confines of the constricting cocoon. There is no skipping of this end stage of agonizing laborious discomfort. But no sooner she emerges as a beautiful butterfly flapping to a new life.

For my dying friend, that was her hallelujah moment. Her groaning with bodily discomfort gave way to the promised transformation. Her perishable and mortal body puts on the imperishable and immortal body that is fit for heaven (I Corinthians 15:50-58).

In that instant, like “the twinkling of an eye” when she breathed her last, she shouts hallelujah! “Death has been swallowed up in victory! Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

That’s the beginning of her end.

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