The Bible in the Coffin

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (KJV)

On a Sunday evening in June of 2004, I sat beside the open coffin of my first wife Mary, who had been called home to Heaven by means of cancer. In her earthly lifetime, both as a nurse and just as a friendly neighbor, Mary had lived out the love of Jesus, speaking truth and practicing kindness to those around her; thus an amazing variety of people had come to the viewings to pay their respects, including a U.S. Navy admiral who had known us when I served with the Navy in Japan. Now, however, I was  alone with her body to say goodbye. In the coffin with Mary's body, by her request, was her favorite old Bible, which for decades she had opened for guidance.

I was having a time of "wrestling with God"--struggling with being angry at Him. It was not just that Mary had died, for I had the promise of John 5:24 that she had "passed from death to life;" but it was hard to understand why she had to suffer so much before she escaped from her body into God's presence.

After much spontaneous praying, I prayed the Lord's Prayer one time. Immediately after this, there sprang into my head the urging: "Look in Mary's Bible one more time!" So I took the old Bible out of the coffin, opened it, and found Matthew 11:6, the conclusion of Jesus' message to John the Baptist: "And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." Finding that verse was no accident; it was God helping me to hold on to my faith.

In the months that followed, God gave me many more signs of comfort in my grieving; but it is good to remember that the first piece of encouragement He gave me after my Mary crossed over was directly from His written Word.

Almighty Heavenly Father: In a world where mortals try to ignore death, and then are knocked off balance when bereavement enters their lives, grant that those of us who have known Your consolation in loss may comfort others with the same comfort You gave us. In Jesus' name, amen.