Photo: Aaron Griffin
by Verlisia Harris
Losing three special people whom I knew to cancer-one beloved first cousin and two dear friends all within the last six months, has awakened me to see death in a wholly different perspective. It appears that their deaths were totally premature, for they were in the prime of their lives. The news of their eternal departure was initially disheartening, until the Holy Spirit reminded me of a scripture (Psalm 66:8-9) He previously brought to my attention at the death of one of my other first cousins in February 2002. This particular cousin was first to make his eternal departure from the circle of all my first cousins I grew up with. The news of his death came as a shock to my family, as he too, departed at a young age; my life, along with the lives of my remaining cousins, was forever changed.
On September 5th, 2017 a second first cousin transitioned home. I’d just spoke briefly with her on the phone approximately two hours before she passed away. I was off that day and received a phone call from her “out of the blue” around mid-afternoon from the hospital. She requested that I pray for her. Hearing the certain pain in her voice, I began to pray. After we prayed together, she thanked me. I immediately sent a text to my sister and directed her to go check on our cousin, as I suspected my sister was not aware of our cousin’s hospitalization. A couple of hours passed and another phone call followed. I answered my phone to hear my sister sobbing in the phone that our cousin had departed. The initial shock from the news I received was quite brief; oddly, an unexplainable, overwhelming sense of total peace came over me. God answered my prayer for my dear cousin by removing her from a place of pain and carrying her to her place in glory. No longer would she have to endure the pain of cancer. Complete healing was hers. I found my spirit peacefully rejoicing for her, instead of crying sorrow’s tears over her departure.
In Mid-October, I received news that a dear friend was in hospice and wasn’t doing well. I heeded the urgency to go visit her. As I walked into her room, she greeted me with her big, bright, beautiful smile. What a joy it was for me to sit with her, talk with her and pray for her. It seemed as if time stood still specifically for that God-ordained moment to spend precious time with a friend. Although our visit was brief, it greatly impacted me to intentionally direct more focus on really enjoying the moments in my life-not just when life’s a breeze, but also amidst the contrary breezes that can at times, make life so challenging.
Last month, I learned that one of my mother’s long-time friends lost her son to Leukemia. He was a “hard core” fighter against the disease and he lived life to the fullest, despite his diagnosis. I have great admiration for him, for he inspired me and many the others who knew him, with his strong faith, contagious joy and uplifting spirit.
Remembering the lives of these beloved ones prompted me to enter into a mode of deep reflection. I recall a period of time in my young adulthood where I experienced frequent anxiety attacks. They would come and go, occurring out of nowhere. I felt that I was suffocating and that my life was out of my control. I became aware that I suffered from the fear of death. I felt at any moment the rug would be pulled out from under me, resulting in me falling to my demise; and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I felt totally vulnerable and helpless. I felt constantly on edge, living life in panic mode, expecting the worst to happen to me at any time. My parents could only do so much to provide comfort, assurance and support. I realized this was a God-sized problem, so I began to seek the Lord by inquiring and searching the scriptures for an answer and sweet relief. The Holy Spirit led me to Psalm 121 New Century Version, (NCV):
1 I look up to the hills,
but where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let you be defeated.
He who guards you never sleeps.
4 He who guards Israel
never rests or sleeps.
5 The Lord guards you.
The Lord is the shade that protects you from the sun.
6 The sun cannot hurt you during the day,
and the moon cannot hurt you at night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all dangers;
he will guard your life.
8 The Lord will guard you as you come and go,
both now and forever.
I found great comfort in this Psalm, for I learned that God was the guardian of my life and the security of my life could only be found in Him. I constantly meditated on and prayed this Psalm daily and the anxiety attacks ceased. The joy of life returned and I could rest and sleep peacefully in the security of my Father.
When the first of my cousins passed away in February 2002, I questioned God, asking why he had to die so young. He was just in his early thirties. I was just a few years older than him. I was very perplexed and troubled by his sudden death. God in His assuring love, answered my question with this scripture: Psalm 66:8-9 American Standard Version, (ASV)
8 Oh bless our God, ye peoples,
And make the voice of his praise to be heard;
9 Who holdeth our soul in life,
And suffereth not our feet to be moved.
“Holdeth” is translated to mean “putteth” in the Hebrew language. Therefore, as our Creator, God is the One responsible for putting our souls in life. Genesis 2:7 bear witness to this truth, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
Also, consider Psalm 139: 16 Message Bible, (MSG)
“Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
From these scriptures, I learned that God faithfully keeps our souls in life, even to glory in eternity. God will not allow our feet to be moved in the midst of our challenges. All the days of our lives, He prepared before we were ever conceived. God is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 KJV), and He is qualified to carry us from birth on earth to glory in eternity.
Consider the transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly. I believe God gives us a glimpse of glory by demonstrating its awesome metamorphosis. The caterpillar literally digests itself and his body disintegrates inside the cocoon, giving way to the development and emergence of a beautiful butterfly. This winged wonder rises up and takes its graceful flight. Its former state has passed away. A new creation is birthed, making its debut. The natural phenomena of the caterpillar and the butterfly demonstrate for us an amazing spiritual truth. As a Believer, I’m convinced that this occurrence in nature is a glimpse of what’s to come- resurrection life! Explanation pertaining to the resurrection is given in I Corinthians 15:35-38 New International Version, (NIV):
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”
36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.
38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.
The Psalmist, David, praises God in Psalms 139 for how he has been knitted together in his mother’s womb:
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Like the caterpillar, God has knitted us together and fashioned us in a wonderful, yet mysterious way. There’s more to us than meets the eye. Though our initial existence may be an earthy one, our God has designed us in such a way that an awesome transition takes place. We exchange our earth suit for one most suitable and heavenly. Paul summarizes this event by giving us a peek in 1 Corinthian 15:51-58 New International Version, (NIV):
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[h]
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”[i]
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
As we enter into the celebration of the Resurrection, let us remember the work that Christ has accomplished for us through His death on the cross, His burial and His resurrection. Christ’s victory over death belongs to every Believer. No longer do we have to live our lives in fear of death, but in sincere expectation and full assurance that the Father is guarding our lives from earth, even unto glory, In light of this truth, we can look ever forward to that great and wonderful change that awaits us.
Verlisia L. Harris is a Birmingham, Alabama native and has been a resident of Houston, TX since 2008. She is a proud single mother of three teens, Caleb, Zion and Victory. She loves to write, journal, sing and read great books (namely, her bible) and periodicals. She faithfully serves as a youth pastor, teacher and intercessor at her church.
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