The Sorrow of a Harmless Shade

January 28, 2006

Thank you for so many kindnesses, dear friends.  Mary’s dad was a wonderful Christian man who was himself a witness to the Gospel of Christ.  His death came at the end of many years of illness, but was unexpected in its suddenness.  This is the first of our parents to die, and the first taste of close death for our children.  God’s mercy is evident in so many details, but the sorrow is great.  We are encouraged to know that Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, even knowing that Lazarus would soon be called from the grave.  The saints do grieve, but it is not the grief of despair.  Instead, it is the grief of knowing a separation that, though temporary, is real. 

The New England Puritan Edward Taylor, colleague of Increase Mather and correspondent with Richard Baxter, expressed the Christian view of death in these words:

How sweet is this: my Death lies buried / Within thy Grave, my Lord, deep under ground,
It is unskin’d, as Carrion rotten Dead: For Grace’s hand gave Death its deadly wound.
Deaths no such terrour on th’Saints blesst Coast. Its but a harmless Shade: No walking Ghost

A harmless shade.  That’s a fitting metaphor for the Christian understanding of death.  The sorrow of a harmless shade still hurts — but this shade will not last.

Lig, thank you for being so very gracious during this time.  I was looking forward to being with you and your wonderful congregation, as well as the other planned events.  C. J. and Mark, thank you for your kind prayers and encouragement.