The Bible states in Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
In late March of 2017, I saw this verse in a new light. My family and friends had gathered in the church of my childhood for my mother’s funeral. One of the pastors spoke from this passage.
Frankly, this verse had never sat well with me. The grief that we go through being separated from our loved ones by a force as unpredictable, unstoppable, and sinister as death—how could that be precious to God?
By all human accounts, my mother was taken unexpectedly. Her passing hurt in a way I had never felt. My father lost his wife. My brother and I lost our mother. My children lost their grandmother.
Again, I ask—how could that be precious?
But, here’s the thing…
It’s precious because it’s merciful.
Viewed from God’s perspective the whole scene changes. He sees us born into a sin-filled world with sin-filled hearts, living sin-filled lives. The Holy Spirit moves with the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we become God’s own, turning to him in repentance and faith. We become his saints.
But the battle is far from over. We spend the rest of our lives fighting the good fight of faith, failing often. We press toward the mark of a higher calling, but we stumble along the way. We live our lives afflicted at every turn, fights on the outside and fears on the inside. We see our fair share of evil, much of which is our own doing. Meanwhile, God looks on, comforting through his Spirit and guiding through his Word, but the struggle continues. God watches. He sees every moment, every tear. He sees every regret and all the sorrow. What is more, he knows how bad it all feels, because his Son went through worse.
Until one day, our Father calls us home—to himself. After all the suffering, all the trials, all the pain, he is finally able to rescue us from it all. This is not just healing; it’s merciful deliverance.
As Tim Keller wrote, “All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better.”
There are few words more appropriate for a father’s opportunity to deliver his children from suffering. It is precious.
It’s precious because it’s meaningful.
Death means something to everyone. Philosophers have spent thousands of years pondering how to live well but also how to die well. The two go hand in hand. To quote Epicurus, “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”
This is particularly true for the Christian. When we say with Paul that for us to live is Christ and to die is gain, we mean it. Spurgeon once said, “The best moment of a Christian’s life is his last one, because it is the one that is nearest heaven.”
The Christian possesses real hope in the face of death. Other worldviews offer little by comparison. Naturalistic worldviews at their best offer us usefulness as fertilizer. Pantheistic worldviews at their best offer us oblivion. Other theistic worldviews at their best offer a checklist of ordinances, sacraments, and rituals by which we can try our best. However, Christ offers infinitely more. He offers us, not just healing, but resurrection. He offers not just enlightenment, but glorification. He offers not just merit, but redemption.
My mother is absent from the body and therefore present with the Lord. Meanwhile, our memories of her live on with us, pointing to he who is the resurrection and the life. At my mother’s funeral my family and I experienced a peace that passes understanding. It is a peace that is precious.
It’s precious because it’s motivational.
No matter your worldview, no matter your perspective, no matter your opinions or background, biases or intuitions—one thing we all have in common is that we ultimately have no clue what tomorrow holds. Oh, we have good guesses. We are often almost certain. Almost.
Naturalistic worldviews at their best motivate us with the urgency to not waste our few moments of consciousness between bookends of nonexistence, but they never fully explain what that life should look like or why we should fear such a waste. Pantheistic worldviews at their best hasten us on to oblivion past the illusion of this life, death being “like a magician sweeping aside a curtain, [as the] soul reveals what lies beyond.” In the Christian worldview, however, there is a Father to love because we are loved by him. There is king to be served because he served us. There is a “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
A year before my mother passed away, she did not know she had a year. Forgive me if this seems morose, but neither do we. We are charged by Jesus to not be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s anxiety will come soon enough. We are to first seek the eternal kingdom. The death of loved ones reminds of that truth. And a precious reminder at that.
Viewed from God’s perspective, the whole scene changes. My mom was a lady that had a wonderful life, but not an easy one. For over two decades she worked a demanding job. She raised two ornery boys who gave her grief every step of the way. She had bad knees and diabetes. She felt her share of pain and suffering as does every child of God. And God watched. He saw every moment, every tear. He saw every regret and all the sorrow. And he knew how bad all of it felt, because his son went through worse.
Then he brought her home. He delivered her from all the difficulty, pain, and sorrow of this world by bringing her to the next. God rescued her from a sin-cursed death-bound world and brought her into his eternal kingdom, never to hurt again. How precious that must have been. Precious indeed.
 Tim Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, p. 166
 Deepak Chopra, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, p. 25.