Comfort in the death of a loved one

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

He climbed the mountain of Nebo beside the plains of Moab. His tired feet and aging body, straining at each step. I imagine the proximity of the Promised Land was the fuel that propelled him to move forward to the top of the mountain after 40 years of wandering and waiting.

“Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 34.

Moses would never taste the sweetness of the land “flowing with milk and honey.” His eyes would only see if from a distance. God would give him that.

“And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab,” the Bible says.

I’ll be honest. I had a problem with this passage of Scripture for a long time.

I know, I know! Moses messed up. In the book of Numbers, we read about his disobedience concerning God’s instructions to speak to the rock instead of striking it to bring forth water to the Jews in the wilderness.

But, man! Talk about harsh punishment (or so I thought)! After all, the man led the Israelites out of Egypt and turned a crowd of slaves into a nation. And not just any nation — God’s own chosen people!

Moses delivered God’s commandments and later was used to write his laws.

He put up with the unbelieving, rebellious crowd, leading them and repeatedly interceding on their behalf when God vowed to bring forth judgment.

Yet, a seemingly small mistake stopped him just a few miles from the borders of the Promised Land.

I finished a study on the book of Deuteronomy thinking about the death of Moses. On that same day, a godly friend lost his battle with cancer.

People from all over the world had prayed fervently for his healing, but the miracle never came. That morning, as I read about Moses’ passing, I could not help but think about the strong faith and unwavering trust in God that both Moses and my friend held close to their hearts until the very end.

As I prayed for the family, puzzled by the seeming unfairness of it all, a passage in the book of Isaiah rang loudly in my spirit:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Prophet Isaiah, chapter 55.

While meditating on these verses, God reminded me that his promises and covenant to his children are not limited to this life. Even though his ways are often inscrutable, his goodness and grace are not.

Moses didn’t set foot on the Promised Land because God’s plans for him were better: He took him to the eternal Promised Land of heaven.

There, Moses’ heart would not be broken by rebellious Israel again. There, his aching bones would find complete healing, and his tired soul would finally find true joy and rest. There would be no more pain, no more sorrow.

And as the children of Israel went into battle to conquer the land, Moses was spared. Instead of going through more strife and pain, he embraced his reward.

Oh! What a blessed assurance to wrap around our hearts when a loved one, a child of God, leaves this earth! What a wonderful truth to cling to when death or the troubles of this life make no sense:

That our God is still good, even when the worst happens, and he hears our prayers, even when the healing or deliverance doesn’t come on this side of eternity.

Moses’ eyes may have seen the earthly Promised Land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob only from a distance. His feet never touched it. But as he opened his eyes again, God welcomed him into the true Promised Land.

At a time when we witness so many deaths in America and abroad, and loved ones “lose” life’s battles way too soon, may we remind our hearts that, so long as they were God’s children, they did not lose. They won.

Indeed, God’s love and mercy took them home to the Promised Land of heaven, where there is no sorrow nor pain. And even though we will miss them until the day we die, we can rejoice in the fact that we will see them again.

Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, blogger and international speaker. Visit her website to learn about her speaking ministry, Bible studies and book. For speaking engagements and comments, email