My heart went out to the Jordanians a few weeks ago, after the passing of their beloved King Hussein. To many people, it was as if a member of their own family was gone.
I was moved to turn to Scriptures common to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The lives of Enoch and Elijah in particular teach lessons that have brought me comfort.
Enoch was an early biblical figure. But he'll never be lost in his shadowy era, some thousand years before the rich historical narrative of Abraham. The very little we know of him is intriguing. Genesis says that "all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (5:23, 24).
The phrase "walked with God" is commonly understood to mean that Enoch lived a life in close communion with God - listening to and obeying Him. The Christian Science textbook says: "If Enoch's perception had been confined to the evidence before his material senses, he could never have 'walked with God,' nor been guided into the demonstration of life eternal" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 214).
As the Scriptures do, this book goes beyond the material senses' perception of reality. It defines God as Life itself. Truth itself. And further on, it explains: "Life is deathless. Life is the origin and ultimate of man, never attainable through death, but gained by walking in the pathway of Truth both before and after that which is called death" (pg. 487).
This reassures me that there's no need to either glorify or fear death. Each one's hand is always in God's, and He guides and cares for His children now and always. This is equally true for those who have passed on and for those who remain here.
Another great example of someone who walked with God was the healer and prophet Elijah. One of his demonstrations of the power of the divine Spirit was the raising of a child who had just died (see I Kings 17:17-24). At the time when Elijah's years on earth were up, his faithful successor Elisha would not leave his side. And while they walked and talked, "a chariot of fire, and horses of fire" appeared and "parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (II Kings 2:11).
It's important to ponder that Enoch and Elijah didn't die; they experienced what the Bible calls "translation." And this lesson has relevance for everyone, even today. God gives each individual his or her life; God is our Life. God's creation never dies. Flesh and bones are buried; but the true identity of each of us is in and of God - spiritual. As spiritual ideas, we go on forever. We live to express God; as the first chapter of Genesis puts it, we are His "image" and "likeness." This may only be dimly evident in our characters here on earth. But as we understand better the nature of God as eternal Spirit, our own true being as His offspring will come into view a little more clearly each day.
Turning to God, listening to what He tells us about Himself and about our true selves, we begin to "walk with God," as Enoch did. As we strive for this close communion, we can expect to see evidence that His good power transforms our nature. We give more evidence of being God's likeness.
I remember that when my father passed on some years ago, there were a number of people praying about the situation. When I prayed, the assurance of my Dad's eternal life, the certainty that he was always safe with God, protected me from being overwhelmed with grief.
We can all be comforted, now, by what we'll continue to understand better step by step: that God is our Life. That we truly walk with Him forever.
I sympathize with those who mourn, but rejoice in knowing our dear God comforts such with the blessed assurance that life is not lost; its influence remains in the minds of men, and divine Love holds its substance safe in the certainty of immortality.
Mary Baker Eddy, on the death of Pope Leo XIII, July 20, 1903