In February of 2014, I stood at my younger brother Alex’s side as he sadly passed away at the age of 48 due to complications from years of alcohol abuse. He had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver that previous September, went through a detox program in October, and had been clean and sober since. By God’s grace, he had experienced a true conversion to Christ through involvement in Teen Challenge Cincinnati years ago. We were as hopeful for his physical recovery as we had been for his spiritual one…
As those of you who have lost a loved one too early in life can attest, after the initial shock, the various stages of grief set in shortly thereafter. I experienced sadness, some anger, and mostly the “what ifs” – what if I had just done this, what if I had done that. By the grace of God, I moved quickly past that stage, choosing to celebrate the good times had with my brother. It lifted my heart to know that he’s no longer suffering and he has the incredible joy of meeting Jesus face to face!
I wrestled with revealing such a personal story in this context, but death experiences bring true clarity to life. I feel moved to share these insights with you.
In the song “More to This Life”, Steven Curtis Chapman sings…
“But there’s more to this life, living than dying, more than just trying to make it through the day.”
There truly is more to this life than being a slave to any addiction (alcohol, drugs, entertainment, etc). Holding on to anything that stunts growth in our relationship with God can take more subtle forms, such as pride, having to always be right, or wanting my own way (…note to self). This can also play out in expecting to always be served vs. having a heart that yearns to serve others. And for those of us who think they stand safely from these things, take heed.
The other insight I’ve gained is aptly explained by the Apostle Paul…
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10
None of us get a guarantee for a “tomorrow” on this planet. We as believers should, therefore, learn to live in the moment — to love the people God has brought into our world today, and to love them into a relationship with the Lord.
And, most importantly, we should love our brothers and sisters in Christ, because we truly are “family”, united under the banner of Christ. We can show our love by “majoring” only in the major issues (i.e. Jesus Christ born, died, resurrected, reigning), being “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32), and by “preferring one another” (Romans 12:10) in business and ministry.
We do that, and when the Lord comes to take us home to be with Him, we’ll have no regrets.
If you have any personal thoughts on the topic, please leave a comment.