It seemed like such an odd detail. In a list praising Abraham for being willing to sacrifice his son, Moses for giving up a life of luxurious living, and Noah for building a boat and saving all of humanity, the statement about Jacob really stood out to me. “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21). I was preaching through Hebrews 11 when I first paid attention to that verse and was confused by the statement. What in the world did leaning on a staff have to do with faith?
The day is coming closer. The day you dread every year. The day you wish would never come. If you could just snap your fingers and skip this day completely, you would. The day that will find you constantly thinking about the loved one you lost. Grief is already hard to bear, but facing the anniversary of the death of a loved one can sometimes feel like you are reliving the whole thing again.
Six years ago this Saturday (July 27), my world came crashing down. My brother and best friend, Chad Phelps, was tragically killed in a bus accident that also claimed his wife, Courtney, their unborn baby girl, and one of the youth sponsors also on that bus. Each time this day rolls around on the calendar, I’m reminded of the shock of that day six years ago.
One of the chairs will be empty around the table for many this Christmas season. A wife will celebrate the holidays without her husband for the first time. A son will read Luke 2 without mom sitting there alongside him. There will be those not-so-distant memories of a friend’s voice we still cherish, whose quietness now speaks louder than his conversations used to. Those who were near to our hearts will be conspicuously absent. And when the cold, empty seat takes the place of that person we love, we feel the weight of their absence profoundly.
Forced to look
We don't like to think about death. None of us do. It may well be the single most horrifying source of terror and tears, agony and heartache, and tragic loss. We strain through life squinting hard so that we see and think about death as little as possible. It’s almost like we think that if we can’t see it, it will disappear—like the bogeyman in your dreams that maybe isn’t really there.
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