One of the saddest jobs a pastor performs is a funeral. I officiated at hundreds of them. Some of the saddest were for children and young people. Can still remember the funeral for a one-year old girl. The mother was screaming at the top of her lungs in grief with a heart broken into millions of pieces. I stood by the little white coffin of this child, who looked so peaceful.
Words of comfort were hard to come by. When I went over to say good-bye myself, after all the visitors and families had passed by, what I saw shocked me. Her beautiful face was covered with the tears of those who had such a hard time saying good-bye to a tiny infant girl who had filled them with such hopes and love. Tore terribly at my own heart. I still remember it years later.
Death is hard to take. So final. Irreversible. Yet the Bible casts a different light. In Psalm 23 we read –‘yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death'(verse 4). Somewhere I read that there is such a place in the Holy Land. It’s a narrow ravine where sheep have to pass through single-file as large rocks create a tiny opening to go through. Sheep don’t like this. They are herd animals. Going together is more to their liking. Alone they get spooked. We saw this in England with the sheep in the fields at the manor house we had rented. Together! Back at that ‘valley of the shadow’, the shepherd has to prod and poke to get them through that narrow passage.
He knows where the good grazing land is. He knows what’s best for them. The shepherd knows! Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows where the best place is for us…in heaven with Him. But each of us, at whatever age, must go through that narrow ravine, one-by-one, single-file. He’ll be there to guide us through. He promised He would. Some of us need to be poked and prodded. It can be frightening. But when we get to that good-grazing land on the other side, we’ll know that death was nothing more than a shadow.
Shadows have no substance at all on their own. Shadows can never hurt us. They can scare us. Let a big semi-trailer truck roar by you on the highway, and its shadow alone makes the adrenalin run fast-and-furious for both driver and passengers. When it passes, we know it was only a shadow. We’re okay. Death is but a shadow. The reality for those in Jesus? All we could ever say about heaven would be but an understatement!
Prayer: Lord, thank you for being our Good Shepherd. In Jesus’ name. Amen.