“Oh, Death, where is your victory… oh, death, where is your sting?”
I stood amid a crowded congregation. People with smiles on their faces singing with joy. And I was dribbling black mascara streaks down my cheeks. Everyone was jubilant. And I was two steps away from a nervous breakdown that would make a Kleenex commercial embarrassed.
My grandmother died. My unborn baby died. My body is dying. A friend lost a spouse. A child lost her mother… pick a Sunday. I’m a sobbing mess most days of the week, but then Sunday arrives, and I just fall apart. Because this life is fragile, fleeting, and brutal. I wanted to stand and chant 1 Corinthians 15:55 with Paul, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I want to force it. To scream it into existence. Why am I not believing that Death has no sting? A sting? Shoot, it slaps me in the face, pummels me, and blackens my eye. I would love for Death to be nothing but a sting!
But the verse that comes just before pours balm on my wounded soul: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” Of course Death still has a sting! Christ has not yet returned. I am still perishable. My fellow Christians are still mortal. Death has not yet been fully obliterated by victory. It’s okay that Death still has a sting…
But it’s not fully potent. It may beat me. It may sucker punch. The sting is real.
But it is not forever.
In a sense, the sting is gone. Paul goes on, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 15:56-57
We are not wrapped in the coils of forever-death. We are not under the power of sin. The law’s fierce rigidity which condemned us is no longer the only way. We have the victory! And we didn’t have to fight for it, wrestle it, and crush it on our own. No. God gives it to us. Christ fought. He wrestled. And He crushed death. And now, the sting of eternal death is gone.
So, dear one with the mascara smears and the barely controlled sobs, I am with you. I have cried those tears, I have fought to sing hope when my heart screams pain. Take a deep breath. Let the tears fall. And let your heart unclench. This pain is brief. It is intense. It hurts. It is not “nothing.” But it is not forever. We are living between two victories.
But until that someday… remember the annihilation of forever death…
And may you rest in the peace of a forever Savior.