Life After Death

By Mary Kroeger

This may not be the article you expect it to be. It is not a story of my life after I die, but of my life after my husband Ernie died. Ernie and I had been married for 70 years and 1 month, when I had to face life without him. We were very close and enjoyed doing everything together! The joy we had in our togetherness gave us a clearer picture of how Christ must enjoy working together with us! How would I survive without Ernie? Would I be a basket case? I told God I would be very pleased if He would take me too. He answered me by telling me that He still had work for me to do, and work to do in me. I had been saying that we have to embrace God's will as our will, and now it was time for me to experience this truth in a deeper understanding.

The following is a testimony of God's love, faithfulness, comfort and ability to lead me in the right path, and to be a light to my feet! This togetherness with my Lord and Saviour is not like two people walking hand-in-hand. Instead, He permeates my being and He is everything in me that I am not.

Ernie's and my true closeness began when we realized that we were zeroing in on the faults of the other. This realization startled us! That evening in our usual time of dialogue, we agreed that we would each try to help the other to be the person God wanted us to be. If one of us had a suggestion as to where the other could improve, the other would be given opportunity to give a suggestion to the other. This worked well, and we became a team in trying to live a life of obedience to our Lord's directives!

Before Ernie left this planet earth, God began to prepare me for this event. One evening as we were discussing what we would do in the event of the other going first, I was surprised when suddenly God spoke to me and said, "True love is always willing to sacrifice." I caught what He meant. If Ernie should die first, I was not to feel sorry for myself; I was to rejoice with him, knowing that he could be without pain in a new realm with the Lord. So I told Ernie that this is what we should do - not dreaming that it would not be long until I would be called to be obedient to His directive!

Ernie died at home. At that time I did not know how much I would miss him! Before that happened there was so much activity, people coming and going, and so much to do in caring for him that I did not have much time to think. Our grandson had come to help me, and that was wonderful and very much appreciated! But I was still on duty around the clock with never more than four hours of sleep at one time. I was almost 95, and the strain was beginning to tell. Yet I still believed that he would rally again.

On August 16, my daughter Marilyn gently helped me to see that Ernie was dying. The next morning I wanted a few moments alone with him even though he had not spoken for more than a day. During this special time of thankfulness for having had such a good husband, I said, "Soon you'll be with the Lord rejoicing." When I was through speaking he took his last breath and was gone. My first thought was joy for him.

After the Celebration of his Life was over, I had long periods of being alone with my thoughts. It was especially during these periods that I had to watch my thought life. I was tempted to withdraw rather than embrace life and health. Without Ernie I felt cut in half and then further 'downsized' by my increasing blindness and deafness. When I felt alone, I reminded myself of the verses that said we are never alone! Christ has promised to be with me always! He will never leave us or forsake us! Often I felt His wonderful presence and I spoke to Him just as I spoke to Ernie. Then I sang the song, "Never alone." But more than that, I also had to learn to listen to Him.

I remembered that I had promised to rejoice with Ernie! When I forgot to do that I realized how debilitating self-pity is, and how important it is for me to agree with Paul, and proclaim, "For me to live is Christ!"

At this time of my life, I am beyond being legally blind. Ernie had been my eyes. He looked after the mail, read phone numbers and recipes. He was as enthusiastic about helping with food preparation as eating the food. Now I ate alone. He also read the scriptures to me and did the research needed for our articles. Then we would discuss these things together. How I miss this togetherness! His exuberant joy in the Lord was infectious. He had a quirky, humorous take on life's experiences. As I mentally enumerated the many things I now was missing, the Lord again spoke to me. He said, "Don't focus on your lack; focus on things you have." That reminded me of the words God spoke to Moses. He asked, "What is that in your hand?" Moses carried the staff of God in his hand! What do I have? I have God as my Father, and Christ in me! I am in Christ and He is in me! I have the Creator of the universe as my Father! I have a wonderful family and true friends! Can I not be satisfied with everything God has provided for me? Can He not take care of my needs? In Ernie's last days he was so moved by the truth that everything belongs to the Lord! Again the Lord reminded me to fix my eyes on Christ and not on my circumstances! We gladly sing, "He is all I need," but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, we don't believe it. We want more! We want someone covered with skin.

One day I was sitting at my computer, feeling very discouraged and worthless. I had my tape recorder on. On a tape, Ernie was reading from the book of Isaiah where God says, "My people do not listen to me." At that point Ernie interjected with his own comments on the tape and emphatically said, "Notice, God is not speaking to the world, He is speaking to His people and His people are not listening." At that precise moment God spoke to me and said, "You are my people too, and you are not listening to me either. You are listening to your feelings!" Wow! Did that ever teach me a lesson! Don't listen to your feelings! I can trust God to give me what I need when I need it. It's so easy to focus on my feelings and agree with them instead of listening to Christ! His words are always life-giving and bring me into joy! As I listened to Him, my discouragement and feeling of worthlessness vanished, and I was filled with joy!

It's so wonderful that Christ knows our every need, and He supplies our need - even our need to laugh! When my feelings tell me to feel sorry for myself, I know that is a lie! When they tell me to feel discouraged, I know that is a lie! The resurrection power of life is within me, and there is no corruption in His life!

Yet I had relapses and my thoughts would center on myself instead of on the Lord. God is so amazing and He always knows how to correct in a memorable, yet kind and loving way. He said, "You are not the center of your universe, I am."

Embracing God's will as my will was not always easy! Jesus demonstrated that it was possible, for He only did what the Father showed Him to do, even though His obedience took Him to the cross. I knew that God took Ernie at the exact time that God had planned. Now I had to accept and embrace God's plan. I have to remember that when the going is tough. God's grace is always sufficient and He has promised never to allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. I do not know the future, but I know Him who is my future!

Often people wonder how I can be so cheerful under the circumstances. Here is the answer. It's the life and power of the Lord Jesus Christ working in me! "I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me!" (Gal. 2:20) While Daniel's three friends were passing through the fire the presence of the Lord was with them, and they became a testimony of the power of God! Have you ever wondered why God is a consuming fire? As we pass through the fire, He only consumes our dross! He is with us during this process and regulates the temperature, so we can come forth purified and with a greater knowledge of our awesome God! "He is able to present us faultless in the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." (Jude 24)

Recently God opened my spiritual eyes to see the reason for that the challenge or fire that I now face. He wants me to know the all sufficiency of His grace and the inexhaustible riches resident in His glory! Think of it, the Creator wants us to know Him so intimately that we see the depths of His love. In that love, all our fears vanish and our trust in Him has no boundaries!

As I meditate on the way the Lord has navigated me through this time of sorrow, I have been so overwhelmed by the love and faithfulness of our wonderful Lord! I now see that He downsized me by diminishing my eyesight and hearing, and then taking my beloved husband into a glorious higher realm in order that Christ might be increase in me! His love persuades me to be confident and without fear of what the future holds for me. Sometimes I view myself and marvel that my heart can be filled with peace and joy in the midst of my sorrow! What a mighty God we have!!!

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14

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