Faithfully yours - You never really know


Neil Strohschein
Neepawa Banner & Press

He was only 55 years of age. He had risen at his usual time on the morning of December 28, and sat down at his computer. He died suddenly and unexpectedly shortly thereafter. Phil (his real name) was born in Nigeria, Central Africa. His parents were Christian missionaries in the neighboring country of Chad. After completing his public schooling (part of it in Africa, the rest in Alberta) and Bible College in Saskatchewan, Phil applied for and was accepted as a member of the RCMP. He retired six years ago after a distinguished career as a peace officer.

Phil was a devoted family man. His wife and children were always his first priority. He also loved boating and fishing on one of the many lakes close to where he lived in BC and riding his motor bike to visit friends in Alberta or travel with some of them to various locations in BC and elsewhere. Most importantly, he had a deeply personal faith in God—a faith he learned from his parents and subsequently embraced as his own.

He kept close ties with the friends he made while in Chad. Most were missionary kids like him. They shared a common concern for the believers in Chad and, I am sure, spent a great deal of time praying for them and their families.

When I heard the news of his passing, my reaction was: “Wow. You never really know when it will be your time to die.” Mourning his passing and planning his funeral was not how his family had hoped to spend New Year’s. But they had no choice in the matter. When a loved one dies, you can’t postpone making funeral arrangements or grieving until a more convenient time.

Over the past month, my thoughts and prayers have been with Phil’s family and with the families of others who, like them, are mourning the sudden death of a loved one. And I have drawn much encouragement from St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in which he reminds us that as people of faith, “we do not sorrow like others who have no hope.”

You see, we know how our story will end. We know that, at the moment of death, we leave our bodies behind and go to be with Jesus. And we know that one day our graves will be opened, our bodies will be raised to new life and in these new bodies, engineered for eternal life in the universe, we will spend eternity with our heavenly Father, his Son and our Redeemer Jesus Christ and all those who, having died believing in Jesus, are in God’s presence waiting for us to join them.

But those words, as true and powerful as they may be, cannot take away the pain we feel when a loved one dies. That pain will be there for a while, because where love was strong, relationships were strong and when they are broken by death, the pain we feel is intense. So, in those times that we turn to the God of all comfort, and ask him to come beside us, ease our pain and fill us with the hope and confidence we need to face the future—even if we must face it alone.

That is a prayer God will never fail to answer. He will remind us of his promise to be with us in life, in death, and in life beyond death; and he will surround us with caring people who will walk with us along the path of healing.