You Must Read this Devotional, But You Should Know...
Someone told me recently that the Lord only gives stories to those willing to tell them. So here’s my story in a nutshell.
ONCE UPON A TIME, a girl named Heather fell in love with a boy named David. He was a warrior; strong and courageous yet possessed a humble servant heart. They married and had three beautiful children. They lived happily ever after for 11 years. Then, the fairy tale ended when David was killed in battle. Heather was heartbroken. But she and the children pressed into their faith and community to carry on.
In the days and months that followed, Heather recalled David’s words to her during a difficult time they had previously weathered. “It isn’t how well you run the race that matters... just Finish Strong.” This saying would become Heather’s mantra. She made it her goal to tell as many people as possible about her beloved David and hopefully inspire others to run with endurance the race that is set before them."My husband completed his final mission on August 8, 2012 in Kunar province, Afghanistan. Now, I am a girl on a mission."
What follows is a poignant and powerful devotional from Heather's book of 40 devotionals for couples "Faith, Hope, Love, & Deployment" which is newly released today. You can order one here.
This devotional and associated resources and images are provided courtesy of Leafwood Publishers, Heather Gray, and Finish Strong Ministries.
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take,
but by the moments that take your breath away."— Original Author Unknown
HIM: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalm 23:4 NIV 1984).
HER: 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 (Romans 8:38-39).
When the bus carrying soldiers pulls away from the curb, every spouse left behind wills it to turn around for fear that it will be the last sight of their loved one. Every soldier on patrol wonders if death will be their new companion. If you've given your heart to the Lord, you are spiritually ready for death from the moment of acceptance on. But nothing truly prepares someone for the news that a loved one has died. Nothing truly prepares someone to stare their own death in the face. So instead of trying to prepare for how to handle death, learn to take nothing in this life for granted.
Rest in the assurance that the Lord watches over his people. The Bible says, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants" (Psalm 116:15). Does that mean he relishes our destruction? No. It means not one hair on our head is disturbed without him knowing. It means that no dusty, hidden alley in Afghanistan that poses threat after threat is unknown to the Lord who created the universe. If he cares enough to track our every move, how much more is he moved by our passing from this world to eternal fellowship with him? We should therefore have no fear of death — because nothing can separate us from him. Let us not fear what is to come. But in the meantime, let it motivate us to cherish the moments experienced together.
One of my favorite authors is Mitch Albom. In his book "The Five People You Meet in Heaven," a man named Eddie dies. The following excerpt is said to him by someone he meets in heaven:
"Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that's all. You can't see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it. Life has to end," she said. "Love doesn't."
Alfred Lord Tennyson said, "It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I disagree. I don't think love can ever be lost. True love — the kind that defies logic, that drives out fear, that brings peace by its presence alone... agape love — is too powerful to be lost.
True love tattoos itself on your heart. You are scarred. In a good way. It's a scar that serves to remind you of something so powerful it transformed the landscape of everything it touched. Like fire consumes everything in its path — nothing is more complete in its devastation. This love becomes woven in the very fiber of your being. You can no more accept its absence than you can deny you are you.
The manifestations of that love will never return when someone you love is taken from you. You can no longer breathe in their essence, hear their laughter or their whispered I love you in your ear. Their touch leaves your skin, and you will eventually forget the exact creases of the hands that you loved so much. Hands that held enough strength to crush you but held you gently instead. When those precious things are gone and your beloved can no longer hold you physically... the greatest of all remains. It is their love that will hold you forevermore. Because true love can never be lost. True love is transferred from their being to yours, and you carry it with you until you are reunited in the presence of the One who is love.
Take comfort in the knowledge that while death at some point is inevitable, the thought of it doesn't need to consume you. Dwelling on the "what ifs" only robs you of the joy life has to offer now. And most important, should death rear its head in an untimely manner, the Lord promises to walk with you and comfort you through the valley. Nothing can separate you from his love. There is life after death. Live in a way that when you die, others will know your Savior lives.
Conversation Starters — Reflection Questions: Death
- Have you ever had a "close call"? Describe it.
- Which part of death scares you most? What can you do to remove that fear?
- If you knew today was going to be your last, what would you do?
- What has been your favorite part of life?
- If you were to die tonight, do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would go to heaven? (If the answer to this question is no, I urge you to seek out a chaplain or pastor and learn more about the life-giving freedom that comes from a relationship with Jesus.)
This might be the hardest letter you will ever write. But I promise you that if something does happen to you, it will be the most precious to your spouse.
Write the letter that you would write if you knew these were the last your spouse would ever read from you. Hold nothing back. Say the things you struggle to say in life. Say the things you know will comfort their heart. Hold their heart with your words. (Though it's tempting, do not open the letter from your spouse unless they are his or her last words.)
The above is an exercise that is part of the devotional piece and is important to help you own the truth of this devotional thought!
Having a conversation about death before or during a deployment can be very difficult. But it is better to deal with death when it is a possibility versus a reality. You've likely started this conversation already when updating your wills and power of attorney as part of the deployment checklist. So just take it to a personal level and candidly discuss your wishes for your spouse after your death. This applies not only to the deployed member, but also the spouse on the home front.
I pray none of the things you discuss will need implementing. But some topics to consider are attaining goals or fulfilling dreams you've made together, caring for loved ones, even remarriage. Removing your spouse's questions of how you would feel about his or her future decisions will leave them with one of the biggest gifts you can give... peace of mind.
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