I stopped in my tracks, stunned. I had no recollection of putting pen to paper, but there it was in my handwriting scrawled across the margin of my Bible.
“Behold the glory of Jesus!” dated January 27, 2013.
Written merely two days after the death of my husband, no wonder I didn’t remember jotting it down! But the day itself is starkly vivid. It was the first worship gathering after Jon died. Though my brain was numb, I felt compelled to be with the church. Grief was an avalanche, but I had to go.
Our church met in an old night club, vestiges of its former life still present—a long bar in the lobby, gaudy mirrors, black walls in the auditorium, bubble gum pink and lime green walls in the bathroom. I remember the bathroom because I collapsed there in sobs after hearing “Be Still My Soul” playing as a prelude.
“I can’t do this, but I have to. Pray. Just pray.”
Two dear ones knelt beside me, holding me up, interceding, pleading for me. And God’s grace was tangible. The Holy Spirit’s presence was so powerful, it was almost physical.
I went back in and wept with hands raised, surrounded by so many who loved me. That day I knew my church was family. Every person wanted to bear the weight of sorrow with me. Tears flowed freely. People embraced each other in small groups and no one wanted to leave. My husband was also deeply loved.
A young college student approached me, tears streaming down his face. “I’ve never cried for someone I don’t know before.” And I found myself pulling him in, comforting him.
The Treasure of My Heart
Years later I scanned down the page of my Bible trying to recall the sermon. I don’t remember it, but somehow, “Behold the glory of Jesus!” broke through the fog of grief that day. As I read the passage my pastor must have preached, I landed on some tough stuff.
Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19–21)
And then I remembered. When I heard that passage in the wake of my greatest fear becoming reality, I thought “My heart is in heaven. My treasure is there because that’s where Jon is.”
He was the guy I had waited for through years of singleness, and he lavished love on me from the moment I met him. He was my first kiss. The first man to take my breath away. Jon was a bundle of energy, lighting up any room he entered, and he plowed forward full steam ahead into new adventures. You might have just met him, but he was your new best friend. He radiated passion for Christ. He was a treasure.
I may have said “till death do us part” on our wedding day, but death at two years, eight months, and three days was not at all what I had signed up for.
Somehow I think “Behold the glory of Jesus!” was the response I wanted to have, even if I couldn’t see Jesus’ glory yet. But just two days past when Jon held me last, my most cognizant thoughts were “I just want him back. Or God, could you just take me there too? Please?” I longed for heaven because Jon was there.
I’ve often pondered the idea of “treasure.” To treasure something is to value it highly. Our ultimate treasure is what we value most highly, that which takes precedence over all. It’s the thing that captures our attention and holds sway over our emotions; it’s where our hearts are.
Along the way, I’ve come to some difficult conclusions. Jon could not be my ultimate treasure, but Jesus must be. My second love, David, and my three beautiful children cannot be my ultimate treasures. But Jesus must be.
I’m reminded of another passage:
Who do I have in heaven but you?
And I desire nothing on earth but you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart,
my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25–26)
What?I do have someone in heaven. The man with whom I wanted to grow old, the man I adored, is there. And you’re telling me that the Psalmist desired only God? That God was the only one he had in heaven?
Does your jaw drop to the floor like mine did? I’ve read this verse so many times, but now it carries new significance.
Jesus Is the Best Thing
Surely Asaph, the Psalm singer, must have experienced the death of a loved one. But he drew a line in the sand; God was the one who satisfied his soul. No one else could compare. God was the captor of his primary affection, his ultimate treasure. Like the Psalmist, I am learning that Jesus is the best thing.
It’s tempting to remember my first husband through only rose-colored memories. He was wonderful, but he was also fallible. He loved me, but he also failed me, as I did him. Yet Jesus never fails. There are treasures untold waiting in eternity, but surpassing them all is Jesus himself.
I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say,
Blessing and honor and glory and power
be to the one seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb, forever and ever! (Rev. 5:13)
Jesus, the creator of all things, is the Lord Almighty. As the song says,
Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him.1
He is the King who makes the world right side up, who brings good news to the poor, who binds up our broken hearts, who sets captives free, and who comforts all who mourn. He is the Restorer, the Reverser. He took my smashed up, twisted, fractured-into-smithereens life and clothed me with a beautiful headdress instead of ashes (Isa. 61:1–3). He is the God who makes magnificent oaks spring up where there was once nothing but charred stumps.
And at the end of the day only Jesus can bear the weight of being the ultimate treasure of my heart. All others would be crushed by the load as my faulty expectations pile on the barbell.
Beholding the Glory of Jesus
Now let’s clarify: to treasure Christ above all does not mean I love Jon, or David, or my three precious small ones any less. It does mean I want my love for God to be so exponentially greater that my love for them seems paltry in comparison.
That's a hard thing to hear, I know. It’s a hard thing to write.
But I’ve found that the more I know God, the more I treasure Him. The more I dwell on the realities of the death and resurrection of Christ, the more I am mesmerized by Him. Sadly, sometimes I still try to make good treasures, ultimate treasures. I am not yet saved from the presence of sin. But I am learning what it is to long for Jesus. I yearn for eternity because there is One who captivates me comprehensively, who is worth more than all the treasures of the world combined.
When I was a crumpled heap, when I longed to go where Jon was, even then my soul grasped the straws of this truth. My emotions screamed the opposite but the Holy Spirit broke through the fog.
“Behold the glory of Jesus!”
Looking back, I see His glory radiating through that worship gathering. One part of the body was broken, so all were broken—a community of believers united in grief but with hands raised in surrender. His glory resonated as others held me up. This is His bride, the church, boldly proclaiming in the face of devastation, “This is not the end!” It’s what the church does.
And the glory of God shined bright as I clung to a sobbing young man, his body shaking against mine. I had nothing to give him, no strength, no power to comfort him, but I knew who we both needed.
Heaven isn’t heaven because Jon is there. It’s heaven because Jesus is.
1Big Daddy Weave. “The Lion and the Lamb.” AZLyrics.com, accessed August 11, 2022, https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bigdaddyweave/thelionandthelamb.html.