“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)
This verse came to mind this morning on the third anniversary of my brother’s passing through the gates of Heaven. While my grief certainly remains, it comforts me to know that he is enjoying a peace and rest that surpasses all earthly experience and human understanding.
But there is one prayer that I especially remember. It happened during the worship service one morning at our church in Fredericksburg, Virginia – Spotswood Baptist Church.
As we sang the hymn of invitation, I was overcome by a sudden burden to pray for Ronnie. I don’t remember the details of that prayer – perhaps it was that God would miraculously heal him. But I do vividly recall God’s response that morning and the incredible warm feeling of peace that coursed through my veins when I heard a still, small voice say, “Ronnie is going to be all right.”
Little did I understand that morning what God meant by that assurance. But looking back through eyes of faith, I realize now that God did not mean he would heal Ronnie of diabetes – not in this life anyway. He did something even better. He revealed himself to my brother in ways that Ronnie might never have experienced had it not been for the affliction he suffered through all those years.
As I reflect on that, I can’t help but imagine how differently things might have turned out if God had answered my prayers through the years and miraculously healed Ronnie. While it might have eased his pain and suffering in this life, it might also have removed the catalyst God used to draw Ronnie to himself.
Just before I left his bedside on the morning before the Lord called him home, after a difficult night, Ronnie briefly rallied. When our nieces, Elaine and Teresa, stopped by on their way to work and asked how he was doing, he raised both arms in the air and declared, “I’m all right!”. Eighteen hours later he passed into eternity.
Only as I was drafting this post did it dawn on me that those words from Ronnie’s lips that morning echoed so clearly the words spoken to me by that still, small voice in that church pew over twenty years before.
Indeed he is all right – as “all right” as he has ever been, resting safely in the presence of his Savior. And for that I rejoice, knowing that there will be no goodbyes when I join him there one day.
“The idea of heaven can be a consolation for suffering, a compensation for the life we have lost. But resurrection is not just consolation – it is restoration. We get it all back – the love, the loved ones, the goods, the beauties of this life – but in new, unimaginable degrees of glory and joy and strength.” – Tim Keller