And I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Favored are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their labors, because their deeds follow them.”
This is where the words caught in my throat. I had insisted that I wasn’t going to officiate my father’s funeral. I would speak, I said, but I didn’t want to be in charge. It would be too much.
But the interment was to be some distance from the church, in my family’s hometown, and that meant someone had to do the liturgy at the cemetery. That someone turned out to be me.
At the graveside, I always quote these verses. “Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”
In that moment, I thought about all that my father had done for me and for others. I thought about the many friendships he’d enjoyed, the many things he had built, the many lessons he’d taught. The words made me sad, because now these things would pass from lived reality into memory.
But I also found deep comfort in this idea of death as rest: rest from struggle, rest from trouble, rest from fear or worry. My Dad, who had worked so hard all his life, could finally know rest and peace. And I was happy for him. I was sad for me, but I was happy for him.
Our notions about what lies beyond death are sometimes so complicated: harps and clouds, reunions with people we love, an eternity spent doing things we enjoy.
But one of the most common things we say when someone has passed from this life is simply, “May they rest in peace.” What if that’s literally true? What if life eternal is finally just life at rest – with no more struggle and no more striving? What if life eternal is simply being in the presence of the One who made us, who created us for everlasting love?
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
What notions of heaven/the afterlife comfort you? Are there biblical passages that come to mind? What do you hope for yourself and for the people you love? Today, take some time in silence, resting in God’s presence, and contemplate the blessings of heaven.
Prayer: Eternal God, through your Son Jesus, you opened the door to life everlasting. Though on this earth we struggle and strive, let us find ways to taste heaven by resting in your presence now. Let our anxieties and fears give way to your peace. Amen.