The Paradox of Death

A friend of mine passed into glory yesterday.

Right now she is sitting with Jesus. She is touching Him and being held tightly in His arms. The Grace she clung to has now been made complete.

I weep over the joy she now knows. My tears fall over my own craving for the satisfaction of my very deepest longings finally being filled so completely. My friend knew joy before yesterday–extravagant joy fed by an unadulterated love for those around her. But even that beauty was a shadow. She had tasted, but now she feasts.

For a believer in Jesus, isn’t death the fulfillment of life? It’s the birthing process into the world for which we were really created. All the practice, all the yearning is met there. The celebration of angels knows no end.

But doesn’t it stink for those who aren’t going yet?

Kara Tippetts was my friend, despite the fact we had never met. She spoke to my soul and challenged my trust in God’s presence more than anyone ever has. I poured over every word, every challenge she wrote on her blog Mundane Faithfulness. She was only 38-years-old, with four precious kiddos. Her faithful husband pastors the church they moved to Colorado Springs to plant just three years ago. She leaves behind an ever-growing community who want more of her. They want more of God manifested in her profound faith.

I learned a lot from Kara, and I want to be just like her when I grow up. She loved deeply. She overflowed with thankfulness. She challenged me to consider kindess–lavish, godly, inviting kindness. She demonstrated how to die well. She literally showed the thousands who read her blog how to die. My hunger grows for the glories on the other side . But perhaps more than anything, she spoke into me the hope of suffering.

“Suffering isn’t a mistake,” she said, “And it isn’t the absence of God’s goodness, because He is present in pain.” I did not want to hear that when I first met Kara. Suffering did feel like the absence of God’s goodness. I was walking through a darkness I wasn’t sure I would ever see Light in and God felt a million miles away.

God has spoken to that place. He has forced me to be in my pain and look around. Kara suffered the grievous pain of saying good-bye to those she loved deeply. I have suffered different pain. Pain that has made my heart feel like it would literally break in two. I fought it in every way I knew. I ran. I hid. I denied. But as pain pursued, I have been shocked to recognize His warmth. I know that doesn’t sound a very spiritual thing to say, but it was shocking to me. I really believed pain was the absence of God. Kara showed me that is a lie.

“I feel like I’m a little girl at a party whose dad’s asking her to leave early. And I’m throwing a fit. I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to go.”             Kara Tippetts

His presence in our suffering is its redemption. It is grace incarnate. God is infinitely good all the time, and no pain can alter that.

There is a community grieving deeply tonight. We have lost one most dear to us. One who made us celebrate love, challenged us to welcome God in our suffering and showed us how to die. But the great paradox of death is the fullness in heaven. Kara is healed. She is complete. She has been welcomed into that for which she was created.