One of the greatest pains we can experience is losing loved ones. We ache because they are no longer with us. Gone are their smiles, their wit, and their wisdom. We miss the conversations and even their proximity. Life is finite but we don’t think of it thus. Death is always the cruelest surprise. For our loved ones who share our relationship with and love for Christ, we need not be sorrowful.
Jealousy may be the more proper emotion as they are seeing Jesus face to face, held within his arms, while we continue our toil in the physical realm on earth. To experience true joy instead of sorrow when losing loved ones, we need a change of perspective, a new way to envision their life with us before their inevitable passing.
I owe much of what I have learned of this reframing of losing loved ones to the 17th-century Scottish preacher Samuel Rutherford. It is from his writings I learned to reimagine both the life and death of those we love. While most of us consider those closest to us as our possession (signified by the possessive language of our children or my mother), Rutherford saw the relationship as more of a lease. God has not so much given them to us as a blessing but has loaned or leased them to us. He maintains ownership. We are the beneficiaries of Him granting them to us for a defined period. When the lease is up, He takes back what belongs to Him and brings them to His side.
If those we love most are now present with God, we need not mourn. They are better off by far than if they had stayed with us. Instead, we should praise God for the time He leased them to us as His blessing and thank Him for the security and joy they now have in His presence. No longer need we fear any suffering or tragedy for them. They are free from the worst inflictions of our fallen world and forever kept from the attacks of the devil himself. Only those who have not accepted Christ’s gift of salvation have any cause to mourn. for they have lost what is dear to them forever. But as brothers and sisters of the living Jesus, the Son of God who defeated death, their passing is not goodbye. We shall once again know the joy of their presence, and even greater still the unfathomable ecstasy of the company of our Lord.
Losing loved ones is never easy. It changes our lives forever. Our remaining time on earth will be without the ones we cherish most. But if we hold every day with them as a privilege of a lease extended, we will learn to enjoy them even more here and now. Since they are only on lease to us, we will not mourn when they go to their true Master and Creator. We will rejoice and give praise for the time we had with them on earth. If this teaching resonates with you as it did me, don’t wait until the lease of a loved one expires. Begin living in this mindset today. Celebrate each day you have the pleasure of their presence with you. Recognize the lease is temporary and so make the most of each day. And when the lease ends, rejoice even more at their wonderful fortune of being in God’s presence. Your lease too will expire one day, and when it does, there will be great rejoicing as you meet your Savior face to face and are refreshed by greeting those you love once more.