Unseen Glances

Unseen Glances

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).


She captures my thoughts today. My Amelia Jane.

I probably don’t have to tell you why. A tragic ending to a fragile young life has made the national headlines, stunning the Christian community and forcing a family to deal with the unexpected and unwelcomed intruder named death.

Maria Sue Chapman, five-year-old daughter of singer/songwriter Steven and Mary Beth Chapman, has left the arms of her earthly parents to make her entrance into the arms of her heavenly Father. A life gone too soon. Five years of loving a child is simply not enough. It is a grief that struggles to reconcile fact with faith. A hard reckoning in my opinion, but one that becomes necessary for all who walk its candid and cold embrace.

My mind and my heart cannot frame it. It strikes a chord within me, as it has with so many of you. Death does that. It strikes. It resounds. It penetrates the silence with the deafening chorus of a truth better left unsung, or so we think. It is a truth that follows our entrance into this world. A truth that will mark our exit from it. A truth that simply and poetically scripts …

We were born to die.

From the moment we first breathed the air of our temporal, we began our journey home to our eternal. It is the way of things. Always has been. We shouldn’t be surprised by death’s arrival; still and yet, it almost always strikes an unexpected chord with a precision that leaves us to grapple with its certainty.

And unless the Lord returns in our lifetime, death will be our required portion.

The Apostle Paul asks us to keep our focus in times of trouble. To understand that our temporary afflictions are achieving, accomplishing, and producing an eternal glory that far exceeds are pain. To perceive the unseen and to believe that the unseen surpasses our current fracture. To keep heart, even though our hearts shatter and scatter with the winds of adversity that howl loudly and break hard.

Good truth.

A difficult striving.

For in our flesh, death always limits perspective. Our flesh cries out for the temporary…for the immediate…for the right now. A tomorrow’s work will have to wait because today’s tears are all that can be absorbed.

How can anyone begin to walk in an understanding that limits the “current” to seemingly nothing more than a monument to learning…to becoming…to moving on to a yet to be grasped perfection? How can death be parametered into a pill that swallows smoothly? What do we do with a grief whose bite seems lethal and whose gnaw continually chews? How do we fix our eyes on anything but the casket that currently cradles our sorrow?

How indeed?

Paul doesn’t ask us to turn away from a casket’s gaze. He doesn’t ask us to quickly get over our grief and move beyond. Instead, he simply and poetically asks us to gaze deeper into death’s frame. His thoughts are not callous or removed…a script meant for a stage some 2000 years ago. No, Paul’s words are exactly the words of comfort we need in times of sorrow because a human life is more than flesh and blood. Our fragile frames embody both the seen and the unseen…the temporal and the eternal.

God has created us in his image (Genesis 1:26-27) and set eternity into the hearts of all people (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This sets us apart from all of his other created works. So when Paul asks us to fix our eyes on the unseen and the eternal in times of momentary affliction, he gives us permission to mourn our loss. So does our Creator, for with our tears we acknowledge a human life for what it is.

A created flesh covering an eternal pulse. The seen cloaking the unseen. The momentary shrouding the never-ending.

This is why our grief is real.

This is why we can say good-bye to “things” with little fret, but when it comes to people, our fret is palpable and deep.

This is why we can find hope, even in the midst of a tremendous grief (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

For when death visits a life, perfection finds its home. The unseen begins when the seen embraces its end. The eternal breathes its fullest when the momentary breathes its last. The glory finds its brilliance when the temporary finds its dull. The heavens chorus its applause when the earth silences its song.

And while it’s true…we were born to die…the greater and final truth is this.

We die so that we can fully live.

Eternally. Without restraints. Without affliction. Without sorrow. Without endings. Without good-byes.

This is the perspective I need today as I live and breathe the truth of a family’s grief. Maria Sue has found her life, even as her fragile frame has found its death. It is the same for each one of us as we draw ever nearer to tasting a similar portion.

Let us not shrink back from dealing with our grief. Let us not hide from its bitter taste. Instead, let us bravely acknowledge the hope that pulses beyond every death. Let us fix our eyes on the Creator who created each person to breathe an earthly life’s span and then to breathe an eternal life forever.

He is where I’m headed, friends. And should we never meet face to face on this side of forever, I will meet you there where we will share in our Father’s happiness for always.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of his comforting and abiding Holy Spirit, I ask and pray and believe all these things in my heart. How I pray you believe them too.


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Copyright © May 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

22 Responses to Unseen Glances

  1. Very well said, Elaine….a truth I had to grab hold of when I lost my dad in 2001…..

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

    Congrats on the K-5 grad in your house. I’m 41 and this is my first grad…I’ll have nother one in too years…and you feel like and old mommy? you probably started a lot sooner than I did.


  2. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'”
    ~ Revelation 21:1-4

    The Apostle John shares his “glance” with the Body of Christ, and we should continue to encourage one another with the hope of our faith:

    Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again!


  3. Wow! As usual your post is deep….theologically speaking. I had to pause and lift my hands in praise to our Lord before I clicked on the comment button. HE is so worthy of our praise even in the midst of our grief. At age 16 when my mama died I retreated into a shell and did not embrace my grief….for which I then suffered for years. When my daddy died last year I was older and wiser and was able to let myself grieve. It’s never easy to lose any loved one but I can not imagine how very hard it is to lose a child. My thoughts and prayers have been with the Chapman Family since I heard of their tragedy yesterday morning.

    Thank you Elaine for your wonderful words of encouragement as we all walk….or run….through our life headed for our finality….death….through which we will then be able to see Jesus “just as He is”. Glory!


  4. Oh Elaine…when you started if off with 2 Corinthians 4:16-18–which I carried on through to 21…I was undone. And your sweet sleeping child—that is God’s love.
    Thank you for sharing this today. I needed it for the weekend.

  5. Elaine,
    Thank you for sharing these beautiful thoughts on this loss that has affected so many and on our journey called life. God has used your perspective to speak much wisdom, comfort and truth.


  6. My heart hurts for these parents–the taring that has taken place in their souls will take a long time to mend and for the pain to ease.
    But the thing that has burdened my heart the most is the young boy who will struggle to deal with his part in the accident.I have been praying for the protection of his heart and mind. I am sure he knows it is not all his fault but the enemy will torment him just the same.I hurt for him the most right now. I would love to wrap my arms around him and hold the enemy at bay….I am thankful that our prayers can do that for him. I pray he feels loved during this time.

  7. Elaine:
    I usually feel that there are no words that can soothe during a time like this. You found them. Beautifully said.


  8. This was a very inspiring post, and yes, it did seem to spread some peace for the journey. Thank you.

  9. Elaine, God has blessed you with a special gift with words. In this deep time of sorrow you have brought the meaning of it all together through His word. Praying for the loss this family is having to walk through.

  10. thank u!
    God spoke thru u…u may not always feel the peace, but its there and u richly captured the love we have for our children and the wonderful promise we have that they are ours for only a little while but will be OURS and HIS forever!

  11. Hi Elaine,

    So nice to meet you! Thanks for stopping by today.

    Wow, this was just INCREDIBLE. You are such a GIFTED writer. I could sit here all day reading your posts.

    What an artist you are, your words have painted such a beautiful picture in my mind today.

    Hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend♥

    I’ll be back!!

  12. thank u so much…what I would do without the calming words of those who have encountered these things before me…God is so GOOD!
    love your blogs!

  13. Excellent post. I agree with Susan you are a gifted writer.

    Thank you for the reminder and for the way you put words to truth.

  14. beautiful post. and it sounds like you’re set for a beautiful day cherishing the things that matter most….

  15. Yes, my friend, I believe.

    Absolutely beautiful…your writing is breathtaking and always brings glory to God.

    Sweet, sweet picture of your precious daughter. Such peace. Praying God will grant His peace and comfort to the Chapman family.

    Holding on to Him,

  16. Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts with us Elaine. Most of us are at a loss for words at tragic times like this. I pray God’s peace and comfort for this family now and in the times to come.


  17. Elaine, dear,
    “How can death be parametered into a pill that swallows smoothly? What do we do with a grief whose bite seems lethal and whose gnaw continually chews? How do we fix our eyes on anything but the casket that currently cradles our sorrow?”

    I love reading your words. Almost, they break my heart. With magical weaving of truth and sound, you utter what most of us can only feel. This blesses and gives courage and, perhaps for some, even the willingness to just keep breathing.

  18. I always take something very special away from your blogs!!! You are a wonderful teacher.

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