Today I said goodbye to a dear friend, a faithful Gospel preacher, a confidant, and a companion through both of our good days and bad…

Wait, no. That’s not right. I didn’t say goodbye; there is no goodbye when Christians die. Let’s try again…

Today I beheld my friend Phillip Vanwinkle, peaceful and still in his casket, the physical toil that cancer took on him clear and obvious…

Nope. That’s no good either. That wasn’t Phillip in that casket; that was just the shell that he lived in for the past forty+ years of his life. One more time…

Today I gathered with friends as we reflected on the life Phillip lived, on his unwavering commitment to the Gospel, on his eternal optimism, his love of Superman, his devotion to his wife and family and friends, and his willingness to bend over backwards to help loved ones, neighbors, enemies and everyone else he ever encountered.

It is sometimes said, sometimes seriously by those without faith, and sometimes carelessly by those grieving too terribly to think straight: “Why did God take_________away from me!?” Let’s think about that question because it comes up a lot when people talk about death and the pain it brings. People are too quick to blame God for death. Satan is to blame for it, not God. Sin and Death are as thick as thieves; they operate in the same sphere and work for the same goal.

So right off the bat I reject the premise of the question.

But, just for argument’s sake, let’s indulge the idea of God “taking” your loved one, and let’s consider how selfish it is for us to be upset about that. After all, your loved one doesn’t belong to you. He belongs to God. God made that soul, God breathed that soul into his body and gave him life. You may have loved that person but that person didn’t begin with you; he began with God. God loved him first.

Did God “take” him? Even if you want to think of it that way, think about this as well: God took that faithful Christian to a far better resting place than anywhere that could be found here. I’m happy for Phillip today. I’ve been happy for him since September 2nd, when he shuffled off this mortal coil and left behind the physical body that was bringing him so much suffering.

Will I miss him?

What a pointless question.

Can you imagine a friend who understands your personality so entirely that they can finish your jokes before you even begin telling them? Can you imagine a colleague so clever you could pitch any hair-brained story and expect a detailed breakdown of what would and wouldn’t work, as well as half an outline that betters your idea in every way? There wasn’t another person I trusted more with an idea. Can you imagine a Bible student whose wisdom was so sharp that you could talk to him about any spiritual idea and know you were going to get a measured, well-reasoned, Bible-based answer?

If you can then you won’t need to ask that question. Yes I’ll miss him and for as long as we have to be apart, I’ll miss my friend very much

But I don’t have to miss him forever.

Once upon a time Phillip was a sinner and he belonged to the Devil. Had death taken him in that state it would have been the Devil taking him away from me. Instead Phillip became a Christian. He made the decision to belong to Jesus, and on September 2nd, the angels came to collect him and take him home where he belongs.

For that I say “thank you God for taking Phillip. Let me know when you’re ready and you can come take me too.”

~ Matthew