This verse has been preying on my brain the past few days.
"The righteous man perishes, and no one takes it to heart;
And the devout men are taken away, while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from evil.
He enters into peace;
They rest in their beds (or perhaps, graves)
Each one who walked in his upright way."
Isaiah 57: 1, 2
At the risk of offending some of my more conservative Christian friends, I'd like to handle the text a bit, and rewrite it my own words:
"A truly good man dies, and everybody is mystified by it.
And people who've served God all their lives die, and we moan, 'Why did they have to die?' because don't understand what's going on.
They died because God was taking them out of this evil, broken world.
The good man is finally at peace.
The godly men are resting safely after devoting themselves to God for a lifetime."
And we call that a tragedy. What's wrong with us?
A dear elderly friend said lately, "There's a lot of living going on, both here and in heaven." Her husband died unexpectedly two weeks ago. What a wonderful, clear understanding she has! When I mentioned these verses in Isaiah to her, her eyes lit up, and she knew exactly which verses I meant -- she'd been studying them too.
Her husband has been delivered from all manner of evil, and a weary life. He stepped directly from one life into the other life. He now has everything we all long for.
It's difficult to fight against the mentality of the culture that teaches us to fear death, avoid death, deny death, and treat it as the ultimate human tragedy. Christians should reject this thinking. Neither is death a friend. Death is simply a conquered enemy, lying slain on the field of humanity's battle now, these 2000 years. When a Christian passes from this living into the next living, one of the things he steps over is the limp, dry corpse of death, on that battlefield conquered by Jesus.