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Celebration of Life

Posted 3/30/2019

On Tuesday, I attended a memorial ceremony for a dear sister in Christ who went to see the Lord after a lengthy battle of lung cancer. She was about 70.

 

The ceremony included an opening prayer to thank God for her life and for receiving her, a brief overview of her life, and sharing from her family members and those who knew her best. It concluded with a hymn called “I Know For Sure” that assured her eternal destination as well as those who believe in God, before we offered our personal condolences to her surviving husband and adult children.

 

 It was an emotional yet hopeful ceremony overall, as the host shared about the eternal hope and certainty that God has promised, and contrasting with the sadness of unbelievers who bid farewell to their deceased loved ones knowing that they would never meet again. For Christians, we know that we will spend eternity with God and each other, so even when our lives on Earth end, we look forward to what is to come. Therefore, the memorial ceremony wasn't a farewell ceremony, but it was to cerebrate and remember one's life on Earth, and a testimony and reminder to everyone that we will see the deceased again.

 

Assurance of Eternal Life

 

The Bible describes believers who passed away as “fallen asleep” and they will awake on the day God raptures the church to heaven. In 1 Corinthian 15, apostle Paul listed the order of resurrection: Christ Himself, then those who have fallen asleep, then those who belong to Him, then those who believe during the seven years of tribution (1 Cor 15:20-25). Regardless of the order, we can see that there is life after death.

 

This chapter also debunks the fallacy of no resurrection, as some claimed at the time—soon after jesus' resurrection and ascension. In the beginning verses, paul reminded everyone that the gospel that he received and subsequently preached to others was valid and was in accordance to Scripture. Believers are truly saved by jesus' salvation grace and have hope through His resurrection.

 

From verse twelve onward, Paul defended the resurrection and how it contradicted the “no resurrection” teachings at the time. If Christ wasn't resurrected, then have no hope in life. The gospel would be incomplete and in vain, and what we believe would be false. Those who preached to us would be liars, and we would still be in sins because God didn't raise Jesus up. Worse, if resurrection is false, then those who have died would not be resurrected, neither, meaning they would be perished, so we, too, would be eternally perished once this life is over.

 

But not only Christ was resurrected and that we will be resurrected one day, the chapter goes on to reveal our glorious forms in heaven through discussing the resurrected bodies and brightness. This is too precious for me to discuss here.

 

My Journey of Learning About Life After Death

 

Before I knew Christ, I studied in a Buddhist elementary school where I learned the basics of Buddhism. From that, I believed in reincarnation and the teachings of various levels of spiritual realms that we would be in based on our performances or life circumstances on Earth. In a way, I wanted to do good to be reincarnated as a human being and live a better future life. I didn't want to be reincarnated as an animal that is being controlled or even abused by others, or to live a worse life than the one I was living.

 

I would listen to talk shows were guests would come on and talk about people's past and future lives through hypnosis. Some hypnotists suggested that the circumstances of our past lives contribute to our personal traits and circumstances of our current lives, and these will affect our future lives. The stories sounded believable, as some saw both their past and future lives, and how theyr current lives were perfected connected with the other lifetimes. I believed that to some extent, as it sounded better than nothing preceded or beyond this life.

 

Thankfully I soon accepted Christ and knew that we only live once on Earth and we have a glorious eternity. I no longer lived with uncertainty or speculations about my future. However, I couldn't change others' eternity destinations. When my friend suddenly passed away in October (see blog post “Sudden Death”), I hoped that he is with God, because he had some Christian background being with a youth group before, but I couldn't be sure; only God knows. His death was sudden, and his celebration of life was sombre. Many attendees hoped that he was at a better place based on the beliefs from his First Nations ancestry.

 

When unbelievers depart, all we have are the memories with them. My friend who died was a kind man who loved company and played competitive billiards. I hang out with him and some of our mutual friends for coffee and card games, and we would discuss hockey despite our conflicting viewpoints and opinions. We had many funny and memorable moments together.

 

But if we are not in Christ, then all we have are these memories to hold on to. And we would grieve over them frequently knowing that we would never meet again, as the deceased would be perished. But we believe in the One who was dead but is risen from the dead, and those who have passed away are merely fallen asleep, as we will see them again durinv the rapture, just like the dear sister in Christ who died from cancer.

 

My Gains From the Ceremony

 

I didn't even know her well, but I know her kids and their spouses, and I am more familiar with her husband as well, who described her as an all-around capable woman who took care of his finances and put others before herself. But the most precious and touching aspect was her faith in God, which she testified in a recording couple months ago. She didn't complain about her sickness. She still sang and prayed to God joyfully despite intermittent coughs and shortness of breaths. Her family members are also faithful and hopeful because of her steadfast love to God. Even though they missed her, and they cried when expressing their gratitude to her, they knew they would be reunited with her in heaven.

 

After the ceremony, I reviewed my life and faith in God. In recent weeks, we studied the Book of Job to illustrate God's strategies for us throughout our history, where we learned that God doesn't cause sufferings on us, but He allows them to happen to mould us and to prove our genuine faith and love towards Him to Satan, who challenged that we—or at least Job—would curse and oppose God while in hardships.

 

I would describe myself as “modern Job” when dealing with hardships because I tend to complain and question God's plan on me, but the sister's testimony reminded me to always be faithful and to trust in God, who is most wise and all loving. He will only give us the best, even through challenges and hardships, so that we can improve and love Him more.

 

 

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