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It’s been a few weeks now since we buried my father-in-law.

Though we’ve always felt the geographical distance between our family and my in-laws, it doesn’t compare to the distance that death creates. For years he was far away. But now he’s no longer within reach. And that’s what hurts so bad.

Grief is a funny thing. The sadness comes in waves, sometimes gently lapping at your feet throughout the day… other times, hitting you like a tsunami – a wall of water that crashes into your heart and leaves its mark in a tear-stained face.

In reflecting on our time of loss, I suppose what surprises me most about the whole thing is that death still surprises.

Strange, isn’t it? Aside from the one Man death couldn’t hold onto, everyone who is born dies. It’s that simple. And yet, we’re still shocked, surprised, and baffled when the moment arrives.

In the hours before Corina’s dad died, we knew his time was short. We could see the signs of imminent death approaching – the stiffening of the legs, the cooling of his hands, and the rattling of his breath. Death is an ugly thing, especially when it comes after a disease like cancer has ravaged the body.

Though we knew the end was near, when death arrived and my father-in-law departed, it still came as something of a surprise. Is it true? Is he really gone? How can this be? Just moments ago, we were shifting him around in his bed, hoping to alleviate any pain. Now, we are preparing him for the coroner. In a flash… death is in the room and life has disappeared.

No matter how much you prepare yourself, death still surprises.

Forget the worn-out maxim that “death is just a natural part of life.” Why try to suppress the surprise? Especially when everything in you screams, This isn’t right! This can’t be!

You’d think after thousands of years of observation, we’d be accustomed to death by now. But no… the love in our hearts doesn’t want to give death the last word.

Thankfully, we don’t have to.

The only thing more surprising than death is resurrection. It’s the future surprise that helps our hearts survive the present shock. The gaping hole in the ground that swallows up a body will one day be swallowed up by resurrection life.

Death’s victory is short-lived. Resurrection’s reign is forever.

And so, we grieve, but not as those with no hope. Winter’s chill may surprise us, but spring is coming.

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5 thoughts on “Why Does Death Still Surprise Us?”

  1. Thank you for sharing with transparency at this time of loss. May God continue to comfort your hearts!

    I am especially encouraged by the way Jesus spoke of his own death: “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father” (John 13:1). This is how I want to view death.

    Like you said, it doesn’t remove the sting but without these great and precious promises, we would be hopeless lost in our grief. Yes, death is the departure from this world to go to our God and Father, who is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (II Corinthians 1:3-4).

    Death is a departure from the physical body to go to be with our Savior and Lord. ”We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8). “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

    How grateful I am for the reassuring words our Savior spoke: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

    May you be comforted in the nearness of our Savior’s presence!

  2. Linda Owen says:

    Thank you for sharing in the midst of your sorrow.

    It’s so true, as CS Lewis said, that we ‘read to know we’re not alone.’ My sister, who has been battling cancer for nearly 4 years now, has been on death’s door for the past month. We all speak about wanting her to be free from her frail body, yet we know it will hit us just as you said-“Oh no, she’s gone!” :-( We’ve been trying to “prepare” for her death for some time now, but it seems there’s no adequate preparation. Thankfully, we do put our faith and rest in our eternal hope in Jesus Christ. But it helped so much to read your post, and realize that these seemingly contrary emotions are..ok.

    Thanks again! Praying with your family as you continue through this strange journey. Blessings.

  3. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this. It’s timely, as my grandmother just passed away two days ago.

  4. David Lovi says:

    Amen brother. The Resurrection of Jesus is our only hope.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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