A cloud of sadness has hung heavy the past couple of weeks over our close-knit, rural area. We’ve seen the death of a teenager, a child, and an infant within days of one another, and it’s painful to hear the stories of families and friends coping with unexpected losses. I can’t imagine what agony they’re navigating through right now; it’s one of those times when there seems to be so much we should be able to say, and yet the words won’t come. It’s like that when there are no easy answers.
I’m reminded of several stories in the Bible where parents had to cope with the unthinkable. A mother, Rizpah, who spent months standing off the wild birds and beasts after her sons were executed to exact vengeance for a broken covenant; a grieving King David, who had fasted and prayed for days that his young son might live…but still had to bury him; Job, who said that the thing he feared most had come upon him when he lost all of his children in a single tragic accident; and finally a mother, Mary, who had to stare up helplessly at her dying Son Who’d been born for the very purpose of giving His life a ransom for many. To these parents, hope would find its way in time, but as some of you may well know, there’s nothing a mother and father can do but just swim against the riptide of immeasurable sadness when a child is lost. There’s no detour around the grieving process; and whether your child is 3 months old or 70 years old—when it’s your child—the only thing that comes to mind is “too soon.”
I wish I had the perfect soothing answer to fill the gaping wound left in these families’ lives, but since I’m of only finite wisdom, I’ll keep my answer to this: sometimes the worst things happen, even to the best of people. Even to God’s elect. Does it mean that our Father doesn’t care about us…that He is absent, indifferent, or caught by surprise at our misfortune?
No; on the contrary, God loves us very much. He isn’t sitting up there playing a cosmic shell game with us. He does, however, have a timetable that operates quite opposite of our comprehension of time. We can only see the joys and sorrows that are right in front of us. He sees eternity past and future. Before time was, He is. Somewhere on that timetable, there is a set date which only He knows; and on that date, sin’s lease upon this earth will expire. Sin set the opportunity in motion for perfect lives to go perfectly wrong. Bad things happen to even good people, because Adam’s fall forfeited man’s lease of our world. A serpent’s conniving deceit—and that first couple’s desire to venture outside God’s safe boundaries—set the stage for many tears to follow. The devil had no dominion over the human race until man chose to take his word over God’s, and it’s been a mess ever since.
Prayer will divert many bad things from our path, but not all. And just because you or a loved one has just experienced the worst thing that could ever happen, doesn’t mean you did something to cause it. The disciples in John 9 asked Jesus who had sinned, the blind man or his parents, to cause his illness. Jesus replied that neither had…but that this was an opportunity for God’s works to be displayed in him. God didn’t strike this man blind, as some might have supposed; He would, however, bring glory to Himself through the restoration of what was broken. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but Jesus came to bring life—filled to the brim and overflowing.
Right now you may be going through something for which there is no answer, no consolation. As you feel your way through the fog of grief and confusion, I encourage you to talk to God. Cry to Him, even argue at Him, but don’t walk away from Him. Even if you feel He has allowed something grossly unfair to happen, talk to Him anyway. Don’t allow the enemy to drive a wedge between you and the Source of hope, because as badly as you hurt, God is still the only one who can heal the hurt. The “accuser of the brethren” can’t pull the wool over God’s eyes, but he will often try the angle of isolation to separate us from our Father. If he can get us to harbor unforgiveness toward God, others, or even toward ourselves, he can cause our healing to be delayed indefinitely. Don’t give him the satisfaction.
When you can’t find rhyme or reason behind any of it—-and yes, life is not always fair, as I’ve well come to know-—remember one word: eternity. That same timetable on which the end of sin’s lease is situated has no finish point itself…because there is no end to eternity. Whatever has failed or gone wrong in this one fallible, short life, He will perfect in the eternity that follows. He will take the injustices, the tragedies, the losses you’ve encountered, and will work them toward your eventual good, as Romans 8:28 assures us. Some of it He’ll make up to you in this life. Some of it, He’ll finish in eternity. Just know that to the believer, we have His assurance that we won’t have to hurt forever. Clutch onto the reality of eternity, and hold on for dear life…it will comfort you when you feel out of your mind with grief. Right now, my words may offer little solace; they may even anger you. In time, you will be ready to move out of the most painful place of grief and will seek answers. There will come a day when your soul will be open to reaching for an eternity better than the present circumstance…and when you are ready, you’ll find God’s constant grace right there. You’ll even look back and see where He had never left your side.
At the end of Job’s nightmare season, God blessed him with twice as much as the enemy had robbed: double the lost material goods, greater measure of health, more sons and daughters. But the best part is, when at last he got to eternity, and after he got to behold the God Whom he’d refused to deny, he found that those original sons and daughters (remember, those kids on whose behalf he prayed and gave sacrifices to God just in case they committed any wrong) were also waiting on him. He didn’t lose a thing, because prayers to our Heavenly Father are never wasted.
Revelation 21:4 says everything I couldn’t possibly sum up about the end to sorrow as we know it: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (NLT) There will come a day, friends, when for those of us who place our hope in Jesus, all the terrible things we’ve suffered in this life will be faint memories overshadowed by the glory of His resurrection power. Isn’t it mind-boggling to think that sadness, sorrow, mourning will be obsolete emotions in our eternity, upgraded to peace, fullness of joy, and never-ending pleasure? Hold out for your healing. Hold out for your eternity. A better day awaits you, because God IS good. All the time.
©May 2012 Lisa Crum