June 15 Esight, 2008

This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.”—Jeremiah 31:15I would like to ask you to pray for some very dear friends of mine who, just this week, lost their ten year old son. I have found that it is important to ask the right questions, in times like these, rather than those which culturally plague us as Christians.

Loss is always hard. There are no words that can comfort when a loved one is “taken” as some say. But there’s something inapt about the word “taken.” We use it so flippantly, especially here in the South. Taken by whom? For what reason were they taken? If you are on this end of the loss, what reason could possibly be good enough? These are the questions we ask when we lose someone we love. These words are especially hard when that person is your child. Parents were not meant to bury their children.

God does not take children. He does not have a higher purpose for such a thing. My God gave up His own child for me. He does not need mine for Himself, yet this is what we feel. “God why did you . . .? ” are the words that roll so easily off our tongues. Even still, “God why didn’t you . . .?” So, what is God’s role when “death, like a gypsy, comes to steal the ones we love?” We read that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:9-11) This is not the activity of our God.

To be honest, the answer is not as simple as we would like it to be. We are living in a world where thousands of millions of free moral decisions have been being made for thousands of years. Those free decisions have set in motion chains of events that are now intersecting with other chains of events that are undoubtedly too complex for us to understand. What I do know, nevertheless, is that God is not up there like the Wizard of Oz pulling levers and pushing buttons to make things happen. Rather, many times, it’s these free decisions that tie God’s hands. Our free will, which He respects infinitely, sometimes gets in the way of His will. Because God grants freedom, there is now an environment created where, at times, even God doesn’t get His way.

What ties His hands? Why does it often feel so arbitrary? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know that one day God will pull back the veil and show us, not why He didn’t, but why He couldn’t. The role God is playing is of One who is doing everything possible to prevent and stop as much suffering as we are setting in motion. “Time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) I know this does not comfort our heart, but it does bring not to be blaming God when we need Him the most.

Unfortunately, we cannot be assured that we will never encounter loss, that nothing will ever break our hearts, or that no circumstance will ever wound our innermost soul. That which we hold dear may, in fact, be taken. But God does not do this. God did not create the type of world in which we are living today . . . we did. Yet, even in the midst of this chaos, God does promise four things: First, nothing pierces our hearts that does not also pierce His. It is not simply our wills that are being violated, but His own will as well. Second, He will make an absolute end of all this disarray. One day, we will feel His soft, but strong, hand wiping against our tear stained cheek. Third, He will make such an end that we can be assured that this pain will never surface again in this universe. This chaos will not be repeated. Finally, nothing will happen to us that is larger than what God’s grace can pull us through. Much more, good will be brought out of these incidences in spite of the harm that we have suffered.

We can know that whatever breaks our hearts can also, by God’s grace, become a source of some of the greatest blessings in our lives. Nonetheless, God doesn’t allow these things in order to bless us. God does not need evil to do good. Still, God can come after the fact and, by the miracle of His grace, bring great good out of our deepest pain. For that, at the very least, we can be thankful. We needn’t be thankful for the events that break our hearts, but thankful for the grace of a God whose heart is so much larger, whose arms are so much stronger, whose chest is so much broader than anything that could possibly enter in to touch us with pain.

I close this week’s thoughts with the words of a song that I have found to be a source of consolation and reassurance in my own times of loss.

“You have led me to the sadness, I have carried this pain on a back bruised, nearly broken, I’m crying out to You.

I will sing of Your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

When death, like a gypsy, comes to steal what I love, I will still look to the heavens, I will still seek your face.

But I fear you aren’t listening because there are no words. Just the stillness and the hunger for a faith that assures.

I will sing of Your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

While we wait for rescue with our eyes tightly shut. Face to the ground using our hands to cover the fatal cut.

Though the pain is an ocean tossing us around, around, around. You have calmed greater waters, higher mountains have come down.

I will sing of Your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.”

(Aaron Sands, Dan Haseltine, Charlie Lowell, Stephen Mason,and Matt Odmark)

I wish you God’s best this week. Please pray for my dear friends.