Life is frail. We live each day by the grace of God. Time is short to love.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[a]; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)
As you just heard from the testimony of friends and family, Mrs. H, was a beloved wife, mother, sister-in-law and friend. I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. H on 2 separate occasions and it is my privilege that I get to share a few words with you this afternoon.
Throughout this week, I got to hear bits and pieces of Mrs. H’s life story and 2 words come to mind when I reflect back on what I heard – sacrificial love. I believe that love is the greatest force in this universe, and from a human perspective, almost nothing can compare to the sacrificial love of a mother for her family.
Mrs. H grew up in communist China and although she was one of the top students in her class, the political landscape made it nearly impossible for her to pursue her academics.
But in 1970s, she got her chance for a better future when her father who was working in Arkansas as a microbiologist at the time invited Mrs. H to move there and stay with him. And because of that move, Mrs. H would later meet her future husband.
They got married and moved to Syracuse, NY and started a family. From that point on, Mrs. H sacrificed everything for the sake of her family on a daily basis. When her husband was battling pancreatic cancer for 3 years, she dropped everything to care for him.
Even when she should have stayed in bed to recover from a brain surgery to remove a benign tumor, she was on her feet again immediately serving the family. That’s just the type of person she was. Always serving others, always caring for others, always pouring out her life to make life easier for those she loved. That’s the sacrificial love of a mother.
This past Mother’s Day, Mrs. H emailed one of her eldest daughter and she wrote, “For Mother’s Day, please do your taxes. That will be enough of a gift for me.” That pretty much sums up the kind of person Mrs. H was. Never expecting anything from others, always thinking about other’s needs and forgetting about herself in the process.
Not only was she this type of sacrificial wife and mother, she was also a loving daughter to her own mother. Her mother’s health worsened in recent years so Mrs. H brought her mother out here a couple of years ago so that her mother could live in warmer weather and be part of a Chinese-speaking community.
Also, Mrs. H wanted to be near her youngest daughter, who had already been living here, so that she could give her daughter a hand as she prepared to apply for medical school and follow in the footsteps of her older sister. Amazingly, amidst all the grieving this week, the youngest daughter received a letter of admissions from the same school where her parents met, the Univ. of Arkansas. It was a time to celebrate and I will never forget the tears of joy mixed with tears of sadness on the faces of their faces that night as they wished they could have shared this wonderful moment with their mom.
But things happen in life that are beyond our control. People get sick. Tragedy hits. That is why in John 14:1 Jesus tells his disciples not to let their hearts to be troubled. Because so much in life can cause our hearts to be troubled. One moment, everything is great and you are on top of the world. And in a moment, our lives can be turned upside down. In an instant. Life is so fragile.
The next verse offers a solution when trouble hits. Trust. In other words, when things happen in life that are troubling, this is Jesus’ invitation to trust him.
When serious trouble hits, who else can we trust? Do we have the answers? If we turn to a family member or friend, do they have the answers? The only person we can trust when serious trouble hits is Jesus. Trouble is an invitation to trust Jesus. And when you trust in Jesus, He gives you the strength to face all of life’s troubles and not be overwhelmed by them.
Mrs. H lived a life of sacrifice. She must have had days when her life was troubled. One life has enough troubles of its own. But when you give your life away in sacrificial love for others, you take on the troubles of others and make them your own.
Last summer, Mrs. H moved to a new home. And everyday, she would visit her mom and care for her and bring her food and spend time with her. And during that few mile journey from her home to her mother’s home, Mrs. H would stop by this lake. It was Mrs. H’s favorite place on earth, a little slice of heaven.
In a life filled with sacrifice for the sake of others, she had finally found a home, a resting place. When she was here, at Lake Elizabeth, she didn’t have to worry about anything. It was a place where she could for a brief moment, rest in its beauty. Rest, perhaps for the first time in her life.
On the night of her passing, Mrs. H was on her way home from visiting her mother. It was her final act of sacrificial love. We are comforted to know that she had one last chance to walk past this lake.
And as a few family members gathered around a dinner table a couple of nights ago, we were all so thankful that she had a few months of heaven on earth, by this lake, alone in her thoughts, reflecting back on all her years.
When asked if she were ready to move again in the future to live near her daughters if they both moved away, her answer was “No, I am finally home. You’ll have to find a way to be near me because I’m not moving anymore.”
Jesus knows that in this life, there will be moments of joy when we are so content and our lives are so trouble-free that we don’t need to trust in anything or anybody outside of ourselves. Jesus also warns us that there will also be times of trouble when our worlds are turned upside down. In some ways, being troubled is a blessing because it will cause us to seek answers outside of ourselves.
In times of trouble, Jesus is inviting us to place our hope in him. And when we place our trust in him, he will give us the strength to face those troubles. Why can we place our trust in him? Because Jesus died and resurrected and he promised to come back for us and take us to a better place.
In v3, Jesus says he is preparing a heavenly place for all of us. And his promise is that he will come back and take us there. And I believe Jesus took Mrs. H by the hand this week and said, if you think Lake Elizabeth is beautiful, wait until you see the home that I have prepared for you. A home where she can finally rest, free from trouble, free from worrying about others, free to be with Jesus and to enjoy him forever.
Jesus is preparing an eternal home for all of us who are ready to place our trust in him.