This past Friday, my friend Esther and I had tickets to attend a musical together. At 3:29 am today, she passed away.
Esther, a vital woman in her 50’s, was chatting with her ophthalmologist a week ago today when her heart inexplicably ceased to beat. Subsequent tests revealed a healthy heart and brain. As far as we know, no coronary attack or stroke took her life. She simply collapsed on a sunny Tuesday afternoon at her eye clinic.
How do you understand the loss of a friend whose life ends without warning?
I have no appetite for lunch today. I sit instead at my computer and stare at the screen, trying to wrestle meaning out of words. My faith tells me that Esther’s death did not catch her Father and mine by surprise. “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Ps. 139:16)
So does that mean that God chose to halt the hands of my friend’s life-clock at 2:55 pm last Tuesday? Or that in the inscrutable sovereignty of His will He simply permitted it to happen?
This morning I read a parable from A.W.Tozer’s classic The Knowledge of the Holy that spoke truth into my soul.
“An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.
“On board the liner are several scores of passengers. These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.
“Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfillment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began. We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.”
After Esther’s father died two months ago, I offered to get her a copy of Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven, and the book was on my shelf awaiting delivery on Friday. When the news came of her collapse, I blasted myself with recrimination. Why didn’t I give it to her earlier?
Yet she doesn’t need the guidebook now. She’s made the journey.
I was praying for Esther and her husband, Mel, on Sunday throughout both services at our church. As Mike and I moved down the aisle prior to the final benediction, our worship team was singing Chris Tomlin’s version of Amazing Grace. The Holy Spirit whispered, Are you listening?
The Lord has promised good to me
His word, my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace.
The chains binding my friend Esther to earth are gone; she’s been set free. I’ll see her again, and the music we’ll experience together will be….heavenly.
Farewell, sweet friend. We loved you so, and love you still.