It has been said that when you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. So live your life that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. You have the opportunity to live today in such a way that how you want to be remembered at the time of your passing will be true then.
Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 23:1-2
When Sarah was 127 years old, she died at Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron) in the land of Canaan. There Abraham mourned and wept for her.
An insightful person has profoundly written of death, “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. So live your life that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” Sarah was 127 years old when she passed from this life to the next, and even after decades of journeying through this life as her husband, Abraham was still stung by grief. He must have expected that day, he must have, in some way, prepared his mind for her passing, yet he was still heart broken with grief from the loss of his soul-mate. She had lived in such a way that her world mourned her passing.
The great preacher Ray Stedman said of Abraham’s weeping over Sarah,
The well of grief is fed by the springs of memory. All the dear, sweet days came crowding in upon [him] here. I think he saw in his mind’s eye that beautiful girl who captured his heart long, long ago. I think it was in the spring, for even back in those days in the spring a young man’s fancy turned to what the young women had been thinking about all winter! ‘Boy meets girl’ was the same wonderful story back in the days of Abraham some 4,000 years ago as it is today. As the old man wept over the body of Sarah, he must have remembered all those wonderful times. Memories passed through his fingers like pearls on a string. He remembered the sunlight glittering in her hair when he first saw her, the radiance of her face on her wedding day, the softness of her touch, and the grace of her caress. Each remembrance brought a heartache in the darkness of his grief at this hour. He recalled the high adventure of their life together, and especially that supreme, compelling call from God that sent them out as a couple together into an unknown land. He remembered how Sarah went along with him, sharing hardships, accepting the unsettled life without a murmur or complaint. How his heart must have been wrung with anguish as he remembered anew the perfidy he showed in Egypt when he exposed her to danger and dishonor with his lie before Pharaoh, and again years later before Abimelech! All the bittersweet memories came in upon him as he recalled their long, weary years without a child and how they wept together. He remembered how Sarah cried bitter tears over that barren womb and how in her desperation to give him a son, she offered her handmaid, even at the cost of her pride, and Ishmael was born. All of this must have filled Abraham’s heart and mind as he wept here before Sarah. He remembered, too, how at long last, glory shone in her face when her own son, Isaac, lay in her arms. His memory ran back through the years and retraced the love that drew them together, through the bad times and through the good, till they were one in body, mind, and heart. Now death has torn her from his arms though it could never tear her from his heart.
It would be easy to pass over these two verses and quickly move on in the story of God to the patriarchs to come—Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. But pause for a moment in this story and let this touch your soul. Abraham loved Sarah. In an age where marriage is treated as but one of many options, where divorce is no big deal, where committed, faithful, exclusive love is barely recognizable—perhaps even mocked or maybe viewed as an ideal from an era gone by—that this man had loved his wife this much touches the readers’ heartstrings.
And now that Sarah was gone, the bittersweet gift of memories held him at the place of death until it was time for him to square his shoulders and move forward into the story that God had written for Abraham’s seed. Yet thank God for those memories. And thank God for the pain of loss, for it meant that this couple had found and built with one another a love so great that death could not rip it from the heart of the surviving spouse. When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure—and nothing could take Abraham’s treasure from him.
Yet Genesis 23:3 tells us that Abraham moved on from there: “Then Abraham rose from before his dead.” Life must go on. The living must live. And while in that moment it would be difficult for Abraham to take the next step, to look beyond the sorrow of today to see to possibility of tomorrow, the treasure of Sarah’s memory made the journey sweeter.
Why did the Scripture include this detail of Abraham’s grief? Why would the Lord have us pause at the graveside of this man to peer into his grief, albeit for a moment? The answer is simple: this is life. And one day, we, too, will stand in grief at the place of the dead. We, too, will feel as if the road has ended, that we have not strength to move on. But we, too, will rise up, for life will call us forward. But we must remember that while the dearly departed loved one is gone, they are not forgotten. Love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. (Rossiter Worthington Raymond)
Memories—God’s photo album for the human heart. The opportunity you have today is to make those memories with the ones you love. Today is the day you have to so live your life that when you die, the world will cry but you will rejoice. Make sure to take some good photographs today!