“I received good news from my hospice nurse today,” said the elderly lady I was visiting. Helen was had been battling cancer for a year, but was now about to lose that battle.
“What did she tell you,” I asked, wondering if perhaps there had been a change in her diagnosis.
Helen replied, “She said I have, at the most, only a week to live.”
Helen died six days later, ready for God’s call, and happy to go home.
William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796-1877) was the great-grandson of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the “patriarch of the Lutheran church in America.” William, like his famous great-grandfather, was also a pastor. Near the end of his life he was hospitalized, and was visited by the hospital chaplain who began praying for his recovery. Old Pastor Muhlenberg interrupted the prayer. “Let us have an understanding about this,” said the dying man. “You are asking God to restore me and I am asking God to take me home. There must not be a contradiction in our prayers, for it is evident that God cannot answer them both.” —The Story of Christian Hymnody, by E. E. Ryden, 1959, page 485.
II Corinthians 4:13-5:5 — It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day; outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
Salvation isn’t just for the soul or spirit, but for the body also. Resurrection is how God saves our bodies. We have a glorious new body to come. The British preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The righteous are put into their graves all weary and worn; but as such they will not rise. They go there with the furrowed brow, the hollowed cheek, the wrinkled skin; they shall wake up in beauty and glory.”
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III; in a letter to Mary Willis Shelburne, June 7, 1959:
What a state we have got into when we can’t say “I’ll be happy when God calls me home” without being afraid one will be thought ‘morbid’. After all, St. Paul said just the same in Philippians 1:21. If we really believe what we say we believe—if we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home’, why should we not look forward to the arrival? There are only three things we can do about death: to desire it, to fear it, or to ignore it. The third alternative, which is the one the modern world calls ‘healthy,’ is surely the most uneasy and precarious of all.
Philippians 1:21 — For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Romans 14:7-9 — For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
John 14:1-6 — (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Psalm 23:6 — Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Revelation 22:20 — He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
O my most blessed and glorious Creator, who has fed me all my life, and redeemed me from all evil; seeing it is your merciful pleasure to take me out of this frail body, and to wipe away all tears from my eyes, and all sorrows from my heart, I do with all humility and willingness consent and submit myself to your sacred will. Into your saving and everlasting arms I commend my spirit. I am ready, my dear Lord, and earnestly expect and long for your good pleasure. Come quickly, and receive the soul of your servant who trusts in you. Amen.
–Dying prayer of Henry Vaughan