"Hear my prayer, O LORD!
Listen to my cry for help!
Do not ignore my sobbing!
For I am dependent on you, like one residing outside his native land..."
Psalm 39:12 (NET)
Being somewhat dense and obtuse about such matters anyway (my intuition IQ is low), it was not until this morning that I realized a contemporary of my older son had passed away suddenly over the weekend.
22 years old. Handsome. Smart. Kind. Dead from a massive heart attack. Sudden death.
What are we supposed to do with that?
The Christian response tends toward the philosophical at such times, whereupon we hear (and spout) such platitudes as:
"It was just his time to go."
"God is in control."
Non-Christians look at us at such times with incredulousness and horror. And why not? Our theology has eclipsed our humanity.
Theology, even good theology, is no cure for the broken heart of loved ones who cry out from the depths of devastation, "How can I now go on?!"
It is so very, very easy to believe God and to believe IN God when your children are safe and healthy, when things are rosy all around. But, when they are not, we humans generally choose one of two paths:
- We either run to God for supernatural comfort that only He can give. Or...
- We harden our hearts against Him because of our deep pain and walk away.
It is never harder to turn to God than when in our pain because, at some level, we all have to deal with the temptation to "blame Him" for what happened. Our limited minds are unable to make sense of it. As Martha and Mary said to Jesus, who arrived just a few days after her brother, Lazarus, had died,
"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!"
(John 11:20, 32 ESV)We, too, are prone to question, like those gathered around Lazarus' tomb, while Jesus stood there and wept with those he loved:
"See how he loved him!" But, some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?"
(John 11:36-37 ESV)
In our current study of Hebrews we see the negative example of the Hebrew people given in chapters 3 and 4. When times turned very ugly for them, after leaving Egypt, they questioned God and turned away from Him in unbelief (Numbers 14:33-34). With every hardship, their hearts became harder against God, until finally, He removed His hand of blessing from them.
What does God long to do in our times of pain? Punish us by pushing us away? No. He longs to gather us to Himself where He can pour out the miraculous comfort that only He is capable of giving. Like when Lazarus died, He knows our pain and weeps with us. The only bit of theology He imparted on that sorrowful occasion was this beautiful promise:
"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
John 11:25-26 (ESV)
As His children, Christians, we are the only Jesus that an unbelieving world sees. No one wants to hear your sanctimonious words of false comfort or your theological platitudes in a time of unimaginable pain. What is needed is for His true children to represent Him as He would if He were still here on earth, instead of sitting at God's right hand, where He is praying for us, interceding for us every moment. What is needed is for us to live out Romans 12:15 - -
"...weep with those who weep."
Father, our hearts are broken over the sudden loss of this precious young man. We are just stunned, reeling. We don't understand why this had to be. Lord, I pray for all who loved him and will go on loving him until the day of their own death. In this time of deepest grief, be real through us your children, who love you and trust you with all of our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly. I trust you, Lord, because I know that your ways are perfect. But, that knowledge is not enough right now. So, Lord Jesus, weep with us. I pray your immense love will shine forth, be poured out in abundance over this family and these friends today and in the many days to come. In Your holy name I pray, amen.