I recently went to the funeral of a dynamic force of life in the Texas cancer community. Her name was Jen Reynolds, and she fought stage 4 breast cancer for eight years. She was giving and authentically lived courageously. She found her calling within her diagnosis, creating a non-profit to encourage some of the most desperate people on earth, those of us who battle cancer. She was refreshingly candid about her thoughts, questions, struggles, and feelings. She had those low places (like we all have), but she found a way to get back up and dance. Her goal was to ensure that no one felt alone in their battle. She embraced life in each part of Ecclesiastes 3. Although Jen knew when to dance, she knew when to come alongside others and walk with them in their darkness. It brings us to the question, why did she have to die? She was doing so much good in the lives of others. There are plenty of others out there who deserve it much more.
A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.Ecclesiastes 3:4
Time of Rest
Like many of our heroes who die too soon, Jen worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for others. She lived the command in Romans 12:5 to rejoice and mourn with others. Her graduation to those heavenly shores was a shock and loss for the Texas cancer community. We all love the light and the sparkle she added to the tragedy of cancer, but they weren’t just sparkles; they were seeds she planted in the hearts of all she touched. To lift a non-profit from the depths of your pain is no small thing. She kept it floating and thriving and blessed everyone. It’s her turn to rest from her work. I know that she’s dancing now with no pain, no doubts, no worries on the crystal beaches above. Although we know she earned her rest, why would God take her when she brought so much good to the troubled world?
5 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief].Romans 12:5
They Have Had Their Fill
It’s not always true that the good die young, but it’s so devastating when that happens. I’ve heard it said of someone’s passing that they were just too good for this world. I believe this is true as I read Isaiah 57:1. Sometimes, these sensitive and phenomenal people have their fill of the evils and torments of this world sooner than the rest of us. It’s also possible that their passing to heaven saved them from some future tragedy that would shatter them. In God’s mercy, he allows them to enter into his peace and rest. This has been my true comfort when someone so kind and incredible dies. I feel relief for them. Have you noticed the good ones have often done a lifetime of loving in their short years? They don’t lack rewards, for God says that faith, hope, and love last forever, but the greatest of all is love.
The apostle Paul faced the same questions many of us do in the throws of cancer. Part of him wanted to stay on earth, but he also longed to be in heaven. Paul especially knew that being face-to-face with Christ trumps the best of anything life on earth can offer. Though our loved ones don’t want to leave their people, once in heaven, all that changes. My dad used to say that we cry for ourselves at funerals, and it’s true. We should weep and let it out, for our lives changed because of them, and our lives won’t be the same without them. God gave us tears, and it’s good for us to use them when we suffer loss, but when we think of her or anyone who died, think of heaven’s blessings and rewards. Their body is now perfect, free from cancer, pain, with no heavy weights or torments from the concerns of this world. God now surrounds each part of their soul with perfect love.
But I am hard-pressed between the two. I have the desire to leave [this world] and be with Christ, for that is far, far better; 24 yet to remain in my body is more necessary and essential for your sake.Phillippians 1:23-24
No One Looses the Cancer Battle
Never say that someone lost their battle to cancer, we win by enduring trials and getting something out of them. The timing of our death is separate from that. It has nothing to do with winning or losing. When we die in Christ, we win. We graduate to a well-deserved rest, and God knows that any cancer patient desperately deserves that rest. When a person with a terminal illness has given and received love, found the light within the darkness, freedom within the pain, hope in the hopelessness, and just got up one more time, they are overcomers, not losers. Jen danced on the earth, and she is crowned with life and dancing with her Maker, at the crystal sea. When we remain steadfast under trial and stood the tests we get a crown. Our dance is to take those sparkles of seeds God planted in us through our loved ones and pass them on. When we do, we are multiplying God’s love on the earth. And one day we’ll receive that crown too.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.James 1:12