Feeling Left Behind
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There is no event that tugs at our heartstrings the way that a funeral service following a great tragedy does. Something about feeling like we were left behind stirs our emotions and brings a profound sense of loneliness to our hearts. In a split second an unexpected tragedy has affected our lives, a loved one passed from this life to eternal life; leaving friends, family, neighbors and coworkers behind. Left behind indeed brings about pain that at times seems almost unbearable. The aftermath of this pain and feelings of loneliness simultaneously brings out the best and the worst our emotions have to offer.
On one hand, we reminisce about the good times we enjoyed with our loved one – the experiences we had together, the laughter we shared, the days we thought would never end. The kids have shared some of those types of memories. Skylar remembers how she showered the people around her in love. This built much of the respect Skylar had for his mom. He also remembers the trip to Cedar Point. Blake remembers the pride she took in them and how she would show them off when they would go to work with her. Ricky enjoyed the times he went to work with her and actually had to work. He also enjoyed all the times that she took him to school. Katrina remembers going shopping with her mom and the fun that they had together at all the beauty pageants. Katrina remembers the trips to Florida and Atlantic City. Katrina also remembers how her mom worked to keep them all on the right path. I want you to think of the legacy that she left for Rick and the kids as well as the rest of us. The hope that we will one day be together again in Heaven because of what Jesus Christ has done. I would like us to consider Regina’s life here with us on this earth as a journey. Life is a journey that each of us makes. The decisions that we make determines the course for our journey. We know today that Regina’s journey took her home and we know that if we place our trust and hope in Jesus Christ, we will join her for a great family reunion in Heaven. Regina left a legacy for her family and friends to follow one of faith, love and trust in the Lord. She worked hard to make sure her family would stay on the right path. Now it is up to them to allow her legacy to live on in their lives.
As I stand here before you today, I dare not give you easy answers. Our view of the world and our view of God have been shaken to the very foundations in our lives. We may have wished to think that the world is a safe and friendly place but that idea is shattered by a sudden vehicle accident. We may think of God as some kind of a benevolent dictator who pulls the strings of life with everything working out as they should but today’s realities make such ideas hard to maintain. I need to tell you today what God can and cannot do. God could not prevent the tragedy from happening. Bad things happen and they happen to good people. God does not make them happen and God cannot stop them from happening whenever it suits us.
This is a difficult time for all of us. The shaking of our foundations forces us to dig more deeply into our minds, to probe the critical questions of life. Today we are confronted with the stark reality of death and we have no choice but to think about those questions. What do I believe about life? What do I believe about death and life after death? What place has God in my life? Do I believe that Jesus died for me on the cross so that I may not fear death? Today is not the time to present you with the proper religious terminology or empty assurances. We need hope and we need it now.
This brings us to the other side of our emotional balance sheet. It is irrational to think we would not hold some feelings of contempt in our hearts over the tragic passing of a friend or family member. Some of you are searching for answers this right now. I want you to know that it’s OK to ask questions. It’s natural to wonder why this had to happen. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do some suffer and not others? What is the purpose of life that is cut short in this fashion? The questions that race through our minds are vital to our understanding of both life and death, and are likely responses from our human nature. Our mourning, questions and tears should not be suppressed as though unreasonable. We have, after all, suffered a loss, and as social beings, we long for friendship, intimacy and the relationships we share with others.
God’s intention for life is as Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance.” God does not want or will death, God wants and wills life. God created the world and said, “Behold it is good.” We gather in this place to hear the promises of God. Promises made which God has never forgotten, even though we may have. This is a God who cannot shield us from the “valley of the shadow of death”, but God promises that we will not be alone as we walk through that valley which surrounds us today. Today we can know a God who suffers when we suffer, cries when we cry and promises to take us beyond this life to eternal life which makes life in this world seem like a faded picture.
We have experienced God’s love in this place today. It has surrounded us and will accompany us as we leave to resume our daily routines. God promises to go with us, encouraging us through loved ones and friends and by sending the Holy Spirit to minister to us and to provide us with strength, comfort and hope, day by day. God’s grace can give us a sure footing for the rest of our days regardless of what has happened, or will happen. No matter what tomorrow brings – God’s love will be there to lean on, to rest in and to build on.
It’s OK to cry, to be sad when a loved one is taken away. Naturally, we are sad. We can no longer visit that person; or to hear their voice or to receive their wise counsel. But as believers, we believe in the Word of God, the Bible that tells us that as a believer who has given their life to Jesus, Regina has passed on from this life to be in the presence of Jesus. She has not gone to purgatory or some other place where there is uncertainty. Today she’s home with Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:8-9
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. NIV
At this very moment, Regina is in the presence of Jesus. Today, she is smiling at us. If we were to ask her whether she would like to come back, she will say no. She is very happy where she is now, with the Lord Jesus and with all the saints who have finished their race here on earth.
So the mourning of the followers of Jesus is mourning for one who has left us behind temporarily. It is not a mourning of sadness as if we will never see her again. The Bible says that when we put our trust in Jesus, we shall meet again on that beautiful shore. Those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus will be together with Him.
Of course we are sad. But remember, this need not be a goodbye because that sounds permanent like we will never see them again. This is more of a see you later. Our hope in Christ allows us to look forward to seeing her again.
How do we know that Regina is with the Lord Jesus? Well this is what the Bible says. How do we know that the Bible is true? Many people throughout history have tried to discredit the Bible. Well the Bible has outlived all of them. It has outlived the Soviet Union which tried to destroy the Bible. It has outlived the Roman Empire which tried to kill off all the followers of Jesus. The Bible is a prophetic book and 1/3 of all its content was predictive. All the events of world history have only confirmed the reliability of the Bible. Incidentally, the Guinness Book of World Records lists the Bible as the World’s All time Bestseller.
We can place our trust in the Bible’s reliability. The Bible says that Regina is in Heaven because Jesus Christ died for her sins, was resurrected on the third day, proving that God has accepted His death as an offering for the sins of men and women everywhere. When Jesus died on the cross, He said these words, “It is finished.” This means that the debt for our sins has been settled.
The benefits of the death and resurrection of Jesus is available to all who will repent of their sins, and turn to Christ for forgiveness and accept Him as Savior and Lord of their lives.
"I tell you the truth; whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. NIV
The baton has been passed. Regina has finished her race. She has run it well. Her children have learned about love from her example and they have learned the importance of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Now it up to them to continue to run with the baton; passing on the legacy of faith. Her death reminds us that we must treat life seriously because we must one day give an account before Almighty God.
“You Had To Go”
Guess you had to go
Leaving us all behind
I don’t understand why
Life can be so unkind
No need to understand
Must have been your time
That doesn’t make it easy
To be the one left behind
Thinking of you always
So much fun we shared
I really wish you know
Just how much I cared.
I will mourn my loss
Then life will go on
In everything I do
We will meet again
In the skies above
When He comes for me
On the wings of a dove