We know now that death and danger is a very present reality in the wilderness. The wilderness is also a place of grief, mourning, and letting go. As I entered the wilderness, I was grieving the lost of a dear loved one. I shared my understanding that as Christians, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Yet, the reality of death is not always pleasant.
Concerning death, the Bible says:
“For he [Christ] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:26 NIV).”
Death is an enemy to Christ and an enemy to us. Death was never a part of God’s original design and purpose for humankind. Death has entered the world as a direct result of sin (Gen. 2:16-17). Because we continue to sin, we will most certainly die. (There was that one guy, Enouch, who walked with God until he was not, and the prophet Elijah was taken up to God in a whirlwind, but it is more likely that the rest of us will die if Christ does not return first.)
Death produces grief and mourning for all those who remain on earth. I’m no stranger to death. Within the past 16 years, I have lost 11 close relatives. I hate going to funerals but, it seems like I attend one at least every other year. It’s a solemn reminder of the frailty of our lives. Grief if necessary! Therefore, we should not trivialize its importance.
When Mourning Becomes Real
So today, on the 49 birthday of Whitney Houston, I do grieve. When I see her beautiful face or hear her lovely voice, I am immediately saddened. Much like the death of Michael Jackson, losing Whitney was like losing a family member or close friend. Of course, I did not know her personally, but I do feel like we grew up together. When she sung The Greatest Love of All, I believed in the vision, hope, and love she shared. I believed she was singing to me.
One thing we learn from the book of Psalms is the power of music. When people take simple truths concerning life and put them to music, others will listen. So when the artists, singers, entertainers, and dancers are in love, sorrow, or mourning, they create and share with us and we pay attention to learn.
Watching Whitney, we learned that as a loving daughter, mother, family member, friend, and wife for many years, she lived in the wilderness. We learned there was immense sorrow for a life that was so promising and filled with so much pressure. We know that for every success, she was plagued by years eaten by locusts. We know that she continually professed her faith in Jesus and made side deals with the devil. We do not know for sure why someone in her position would resort to using drugs and alcohol. We do know that like all addictions, substance dependency reveals the reality of the wilderness—the fact that there is something much deeper happening in our inner person. Looking through the windows of her life’s storms, we mourn.
In reflecting on the realities of these sorrows, we could grieve what is lost and assume like the writer of Ecclesiastes that death is the same useless fait that awaits all of us and life is therefore meaningless. Or we can view grief as yet another opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ. We can look at our situations, meditate on the scriptures and remind ourselves that death has not won. For God is love and love conquers death!
A Word from Bishop T.D. Jakes at the funeral of Whitney Houston:
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012