Day 4

Mortality and Life

from the Mourning and Dancing reading plan

Psalm 103:15-16, Psalm 90:12-17, 1 Corinthians 15:26, Psalm 139:1-24, John 15:9-11, Revelation 21:4-5

BY Bailey Gillespie

There is an Irish poet named John O’Donohue who writes blessings for many types of life experiences. In his piece “A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness,” he says, “May you find in yourself a courageous hospitality towards what is difficult, painful, and unknown. May you use this illness as a lantern to illuminate the new qualities that will emerge in you.”

My friend Greg read this aloud at a songwriting retreat this spring, and the moment I heard it, I was moved. The poet’s words were at the same time deeply comforting and deeply provoking. Although Donohue was writing specifically of illness, his words spoke to the greater reality that each of our mortal bodies is slowly dying, yet there is wisdom and beauty to be harvested on the journey. We can use our mortality as a lantern. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy showing hospitality to others far more than I enjoy showing it to myself—especially to my fragile body.

In Psalm 103:15–16, the psalmist describes how our days are like the grass and flowers of the field that vanish. There is beauty in this fragility. But our modern culture is uncomfortable with our own mortality because we’re so removed from death—animal death, human death, even the death of our dreams. The American dream tells me I can have and do whatever my heart wants, but often what my heart wants is outside my control and slips through my fingers. It is like those grasses of the field. What endures is the life to come, our eternal inheritance that is sturdy and true and real enough to last.

Though it’s easy to admire the seemingly timeless endurance of human achievements like the great cathedrals or other wonders of the world, knowing that my own skin and bones are more susceptible to death than these is something of a paradox. How strange that these artifacts would outlive the humans who built them. But this past summer, we observed how even the grandeur of Notre Dame was not enough to protect it from being partially consumed by fire. Even what appears timeless isn’t always so.

We would be without hope if it weren’t for the promised redemption of all things. Christ is making all things new. Scripture says that “Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4–5). The hope of new heavens and a new earth and new bodies doesn’t take away the sting of these current decaying ones, but it should relieve some of the despair attached to it.

May we show ourselves a courageous hospitality. May those deep, dark, dying places inside us reveal even deeper ways to enter into the love of Jesus, no matter what season we find ourselves in. Although the process is painful, it enlarges our understanding of God and what it means to be co-heirs with Christ and His coming, eternal kingdom. This is not all there is. Mourning will end in dancing, and death will end in life.

Post Comments (166)

166 thoughts on "Mortality and Life"

  1. Melissa Graves says:

    Churchmouse, I am in the same mode as you are: filters waning, awareness of my mortality expanding and longing for my eternal home increasing by the hour. I pray that my final days will be filled with Spirit inspired hope and joy and that I would bring sweetness and love to those around me, centered on the love of Christ. I am praying for you…please pray for me as well!

  2. Laura says:

    My youngest son, Luke, clung to Romans 8:18 during the two years he fought against cancer. “For I consider the sufferings of this present time not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.”

    Luke was 17 years old when he passed from this earth on to Heaven and the glory that I have yet to see. The grief and pain of the separation from my son are intense as I am still living in this broken world. But I remind myself that that a time is coming when:

    “Death will no longer exist;
    grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer…”

    I am encouraged by the devotional today to look for ways to deepen my faith and serve others through my grief and pain. It’s been two years since Luke breathed his last breath, and I am slowly re-entering the world of the living. I am looking for God’s provision and goodness in all the pain. I am looking for God’s purpose through the suffering.

  3. Kristen says:

    Wendy, I’m sorry to hear about your friend. We lost a coworker to suicide too. This is a good message from Pastor Greg Laurie after one of their pastors also committed suicide. Here is a link:
    May you and all feel God’s comfort.

  4. Susan Merritt says:

    Gods love is the most joyous to the soul. However, in this dark world sometimes we forget it is there or where to look for it. I am reminded of the story of Hansel and Gretel when they had to look for crumbs to find their way back home. Likewise, we need to look for Gods love even when it sometimes feels like searching for crumbs in a hidden and lonely path. This is the way we will be able to feel joy during the darkest hours. I am suffering from depression brought by Dry eye Syndrome and SADS. Today I walked outside to look for signs of “ crumbs” or in other words Gods love. I was able to feel his love in nature and in the beauty of fall and the changing leaves. It was a wonderful experience.

  5. Wendy says:

    I loved this devotional today! This came in so close as my father is a few states away on an oncology floor, fighting cancer, and while we mourn the loss of a friend to suicide, and even as the seasons change and the days grow shorter making way for darker nights. We need to know that God is making all things new again and even in this season of letting go, we can cherish the new wisdom being revealed to us, if only we look inside our hearts and listen for the spirit. Thank you, Bailey!

  6. Isabella Lopez says:

    I love this!:

    “This is not all there is. Mourning will end in dancing, and death will end in life.”

  7. Emilee Mots says:

    I loved this devotional today. I am just so thankful that God,out of his rich mercy and grace, conquered death. He didn’t have to do that, we’re the ones that brought death into the world. But God is good, and he wipes our tears away. One day we’ll be in his presence and the overwhelming joy will surpass any earthly suffering. Thankful for the time he has given me here. It’s something that I often overlook, but I know that my days are numbered… yet I’m able to look joyfully ahead despite the temporary sting of mourning.

  8. Susan Crosby says:

    I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God knit me in my mother’s womb. He knows the number of my days. God is sovereign over life and death. I Thessalonians reminds us that Believers fall asleep when faced with death. This is so comforting to know when loved ones who are believers pass on.❤️

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