6 Years Ago Today my Mother Died, and I’m Okay

On this day in 2016 my mother died, and a few days later I wrote an article called, When Prayer Doesn’t Move MountainsThe comment section was filled with notes of sympathy and condolences which I greatly appreciated. I was amazed I could write an article right after my mother died. I always thought when my mother died I would just roll up into a little ball and lay there till Jesus came. But I didn’t. I did not become dysfunctional- or at least not anymore dysfunctional than I already was. I was amazed that I not only could exist and survive but I was actually productive and thriving. Sure there were a lot of tears and heartache. I remember wanting to tell my mother that my mother died. After all whenever something bad happened I would always share it with her. But I couldn’t share this with her. But I also remember driving between Bible studies soon after she died, and an almost euphoric feeling came over me when I realized my mother died and I was going to survive. I wasn’t going to roll up into a little ball and just lie there after all! Just days after returning from the funeral, I went out for pizza with some friends. I found myself laughing and enjoying myself. Then as I walked to my car a feeling came over me. Am I allowed to be having this much fun yet? 

My mother Sara, and myself.

You may or may not be able to identify with my thoughts and feelings. I have found that we all grieve differently. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, at least within reason, I feel I need to share my experience, because I do not grieve the way so many other people say that we grieve. In recent conversations I have found I am not alone. I am not aiming to be judgmental or invalidate anyone’s grieving process. I just want to share my experience and why I have so much hope. Here are some ways I and many others do not grieve the way the popular society seems to think we all grieve. 

“My mother enjoyed her life before I was born, and I can enjoy my life after she is gone.”

When I read memes on Facebook about how that person would give anything to talk to their dead loved one, I cannot relate with that. Sure right after my mother died I wanted to tell my mom that my mom died, but that emotion did not stay with me. Why? I remember talking to a friend who’s mother died several years before mine. Back then I asked my friend how she found the strength to go on. While she loved her mother she said something I had never thought of before. She said, “My mother enjoyed her life before I was born, and I can enjoy my life after she is gone.” At first it sounded kind of cold but it makes a lot of sense. My mother enjoyed her life before I was born because she had Jesus in her life. I soon realized after I lost my mother that as much as I loved my mother, I live for Jesus. My mother taught me to live for Jesus. While I loved my mother dearly and can’t wait to see her in the resurrection I can continue living a happy, fruitful and productive life because I live for Jesus. Hence, I don’t wish I could talk to my mother right now. I need to talk to Jesus, and I can! 

During a Bible study last week I was talking to a much younger friend who already lost her mother a few years ago. I shared with her that I don’t constantly think, much less talk about my mother being gone all the time, even though many Facebook memes seem to imply we all do. She agreed with me that she does not think about her mother every day either. I don’t mourn her loss on Mother’s Day. I am too busy celebrating all the wonderful mothers in the world today. After my mom died my niece became a mother and she is one the best mothers I have ever seen, and I love her kids like crazy. I am too busy celebrating what I have instead of grieving what I don’t have. 

I am enjoying my life while my mother rests, knowing that while she told me stories about people and things that happened before I was born, when Jesus wakes her up I can tell her stories about people and things that happened while she was sleeping. While we both spent a portion of our time on earth together and without each other, we will have all eternity in heaven to spend together! 

I don’t need to wish my mother a happy heavenly birthday. 

I am alarmed at how many of my friends, even Seventh-day Adventist friends  wish their late mothers a happy heavenly birthday on social media. For some reason many think it sounds nice, but there is not one single passage of Scripture that even hints that our dead loved ones are already in heaven. I find comfort in the truth about what happens when you die. In 1 Thessalonians 4:18 Paul tells us to comfort each other with “these words” about the resurrection. Nowhere in Scripture does Paul, Jesus or anyone else tell us that our dead loved ones are in heaven, much less to comfort each other with such words. Again 1 Thessalonians 4:18 tells us to comfort each other with words about the resurrection. It sends chills of joy down my spine when I think about the fact that my mother’s very next thought will be Jesus is coming! My mother is resting and does not know anything. The next thing she knows Jesus will be coming! What a glorious thought! I don’t need to draw comfort from the lies and deceptions of spiritualism when the truth of God’s Word gives me comfort I can depend on. 

Our grief is personal and private. I don’t mean to shame anyone for the way they grieve. We all grieve differently. Our relationships are unique and the way we grieve the loss of those relationships is unique. The way we cope and continue to function is unique. While I don’t really mark anniversaries of my mother’s passing, I thought this year it would be a good time to share some hope with others. Regardless what social media memes say, you don’t have to feel sad each and every day. Psalm 23:6 says goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our life and that includes the days after a loved one dies. We can live happy, productive lives while looking forward to the resurrection. Regardless what social media memes say, we don’t need to wish our dead loved ones a happy heavenly birthday. We can let our dead loved ones rest, while we comfort each other with words of hope that are actually in Scripture. The words About the resurrection that Paul told us to comfort each other with in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Meanwhile Jesus gives us strength and even joy as we live for Him.  

Adventist Beliefs in Light of the Cross

The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption,–the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers. –Ellen White, Gospel Workers, Page 315 

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. 

Sabbath’s lesson this week says, “This week we look at some essential biblical teachings that make us Adventists and that shape our unity in faith.” As we take a look at these teachings, it is important to remember that we are saved by God’s love alone. So why is our understanding of these teachings so important? Bible teachings, or doctrines morph our understanding of God’s love, and our relationship and acceptance of God depends greatly on our understanding of His love. Bible teachings have to be correctly understood in order to correctly understand God’s love. For example, I have read testimonies from not just one, but various former atheists, who testified that the true Bible teaching about the punishment of the wicked helped them accept Christianity. Before, they could not comprehend a God who would torture sinners throughout all eternity. They could not believe such a god exists, and they are right! The god they were told about who tortures sinners for all eternity does not exist!

It is also important for us to remember that these Adventist beliefs were discovered by pioneers of various denominations. They all sat down together putting aside previous notions, and decided to go by the Bible alone. Together they found the truths Adventists hold dear today. However, they did not do all this searching, digging and studying for us! They studied for themselves and we must study for ourselves. So let’s begin,

Sunday’s lesson mentions Salvation in Jesus.

Why is studying salvation in light of the cross so important?

In pagan religions man makes the sacrifices to obtain the pleasure and acceptance of his “god”. Some pagan tribes have offered up human sacrifices just to make sure the sun would rise the next day. They also brought gifts for their “gods” hoping to gain their love and blessing. In Christianity it is the exact opposite. Our God sacrifices Himself on the Cross to obtain not His but our pleasure and acceptance. While we were the guilty ones He did not wait for us to bring a gift or peace offering, but made Himself the peace offering. Revelation 12 tells us of a war in heaven. Not with machine guns and tanks, but a war of the minds. Isaiah 14 tells us Satan wanted God’s seat to the point where he was willing to kill God Himself to get it. He convinced a third of the angels that it would be in the best interest of the Universe if he was in control rather than God. Satan came to this earth and in Genesis 3 convinced Eve and thus mankind that he was more interested in our welfare than God was. For years a great controversy has raged over who has our best interest in mind.

The Cross settles the controversy of who has our best interest in mind once and for all. At the Cross we see the true character of both God and Satan. While we see Satan manipulating men to kill God, we see a tyrant who is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way of being number one. In contrast we see a God who is willing to give His life to save the world. The Cross shows who is really interested in our welfare and who is just using us as pawns for his own selfish purposes. While Satan pretended to be on our side and acting in our best interest we see what he is really up to. We can also see the God whom Satan claimed did not really care about us is actually at peace with us and on our side!

You may find a Bible based study on the plan of salvation in light of the cross here. 

Monday’s lesson mentions the second coming of Jesus. 

Why is studying the second coming in light of the cross so important?

There is a difference between believing Jesus will come, and loving His appearing. Children who are misbehaving at home while mother is out running errands believe she is coming again but since they have misbehaved and made a mess out of the house they do not love her appearing. A true Adventist is one who not only believes in Jesus’ coming but is in love with Him and His appearing. They are like Paul in Galatians 6:14 and in love with the Cross and crucified to the world! The Bible often refers to the church as a woman (Revelation 12). Revelation 19:7 mentions a bride who is ready for marriage with the Lamb. Who could the Lamb be but Jesus and who could this bride be but His church? I have heard it said that the church wants to flirt with Jesus and even date Him, but the church also wants to flirt and date with the world. Jesus is not coming back to flirt and date His church. He is coming back for a wedding, to marry His bride! It is at the cross, where the church falls in love with Jesus and decides to stop dating the world and marry Jesus.

You may find a Bible based study on the second coming of Jesus here. 

Tuesday’s lesson mentions the Sanctuary. 

Why is studying the sanctuary in light of the cross so important? 

At the cross we see a God who provided a sacrifice to reconcile the world to Himself. In the sanctuary we see Jesus mediating between the Father and the world, not convincing the Father to love and accept the world, but convincing the world to love and accept the Father. The sanctuary shows us the purpose of the cross was not to appease and angry God, but to appease an angry race. 

You may find a Bible based study on the sanctuary and cleansing of the sanctuary here. 

Wednesday’s lesson mentions the Sabbath.

Why is studying the Sabbath in light of the cross so important?

Satan does not want us to forget the Sabbath because he wants us to forget the law. Satan knows we are not saved by the works of the law but by grace. The Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace. We do no work on that day, demonstrating that it is not our works that sustain or save us but rather God’s work both at creation and the cross that sustain and save us. We rest on the Sabbath showing that we are resting our faith in the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ. I can imagine God walking with Adam and Eve through the garden, as He showed them all He had made for them, and the wonders of not their works but His works. Adam and Eve realized that day with God, “it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalms 100:3) Before and after the Cross the Sabbath is a sign that it is God’s work that creates and sustains us. The Sabbath Commandment reminds us that God is our creator and we refrain from work and worldly activities on the Sabbath day as we rest our faith in God’s power to save and provide for us, instead of our own works and ability to do business and make money. The same principle is seen in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4 we read about Abel worshiping the way God had commanded in bringing a lamb as a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice as the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus: the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, more than just worshiping as God had instructed was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him and not his own works, he was looking to the Cross. Cain’s sacrifice was refused because he did not worship the way God had instructed, and he brought his own fruit, the work of his own hands. God cannot accept our works and could not accept Cain’s works either. Only the Cross can save us. Today, many people like Cain, try to be saved by worshiping their own way. Jesus says about them, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Our own works and man made ways of worship will never save us.

The story goes of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. Tied to a string he set the boat out to sail in a nearby creek and then would use the string to reel it back in. One day the string broke and the little boat fell victim to the rapids and sailed away. Several days later the boy is window shopping downtown when he sees his boat in a toy store window. He goes inside and tells the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store not sure if he should believe the young lad tells the boy he will have to purchase the boat if he wants it back. The boy does several chores around the home and neighborhood to get the few dollars the boat costs. He returns to the store and purchases his own boat. Walking home, holding his boat close to his chest he was over heard saying, “little boat you are twice mine. First I made you, and then I bought you.” That is what Jesus is telling us through the Sabbath today. As we rest from our works on the Sabbath and put our faith in Him, He tells us, “You are twice mine. First, at creation I made you, and then at the cross I bought you.”

You may find a Bible based study on the Sabbath here. 

Thursday’s lesson mentions death and the resurrection. 

Why is studying death and the resurrection in light of the cross so important?

First of all if you don’t really die then Jesus did not really die for us and we still need a Savior. The lie that we don’t really die destroys the cross and everything Jesus endured and accomplished on it. If Jesus was not really tasting death like Hebrews 2:9 says He did, then we have just minimized the cross to a six hour pain endurance marathon. I remember sitting in a funeral a while back for a little girl who was hit and killed by a car. Her mother sat on the front pew sobbing uncontrollably. Meanwhile the pastor talked about how happy the little girl and Jesus were right now up in heaven. Do you know how cruel that made Jesus look to the poor mother? Would Jesus tear a mother’s heart apart just to go have fun with her daughter? I think not! The little girl is resting in her grave and will be united with Jesus in heaven when the mother is reunited with her at the second coming.

You may find a Bible based study on death and the resurrection here. 

How do these Bible teachings in light of the cross help you to appreciate the love of God?