Several weeks ago I preached the funeral for a very dear friend and one of our daughter’s nurses. She was a third grandmother and very special in our hearts. It was hard. They always are.
This morning before church Brynna had a short grand mal seizure, the first one like this in a while. Her mother cradled her in her arms as she came back around. She was groggy but recovered.
Seizures are a part of our life, but they always scare me a little. She got through it. We got through it. We went to church. It was hard. It always is.
Yesterday afternoon we received word the son of one of my dearest friends had passed away in a tragic accident. Another gut punch. These are the phone calls every parent dreads and no one ever wants to hear about.
When I talked to his dad I thought, “there are no words to ease this blow.” Words seem so inadequate. Or are they? As we wept together on the phone he reminded me that GOD IS STILL GOOD. Those are words that bring comfort. He is Good to have granted salvation, good to have drawn this young man close in this life, good to have offered up His own Son a ransom for many.
Paul told the Thessalonian Christians
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For we say this to you by a word from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
These are the only words of comfort in a time like this which bear the weight of the tragedy at hand.
We spend our lives working to avoid suffering and yet, it finds us.
Everyone’s degree of suffering is different. For some it comes in a moment of tragedy. For others it endures for a lifetime in chronic illness or maybe stems from trauma or abuse. It is physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. Sometimes it’s all of the above … all at once.
But one thing is certain: it has a purpose and we are not without HOPE.
After encouraging his Philippian readers to rejoice in the Lord, the Apostle Paul says he has one goal: to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
In order to know the power of resurrection, there is first the sting and weight of death and the fellowship in His sufferings. Thankfully, in light of resurrection, death has no lasting power but signifies a greater hope for the future. And suffering isn’t a pointless cost of a broken world. It serves to polish us to a shining reflection of Jesus.
Having the proper outlook on suffering doesn’t lessen it’s pain, but it does illuminate its goal. It re-frames its cause and inspires HOPE. When Mary and Martha waited for Jesus to heal Lazarus they felt the sting of death crouched at the door. You can hear it in their voices as they question why he tarried, why He allowed death to find them. Then, Jesus wept.
He wept because suffering is real. It hurts. It is hard. It always is.
But then … oh …
But then He spoke the words that brought LIFE where there was only death, HOPE where there was only despair, JOY where there was only sorrow. He spoke these words as He wiped the tears of earthly sorrow!
So today I want to shout that GOD IS GOOD.
Through my own tears for my friends I want to shout GOD IS GOOD.
Through the fears I have each time my daughter has a bad day I want to shout GOD IS GOOD.
Despite our circumstances, GOD IS GOOD.
Despite our failures, GOD IS GOOD.
Despite our brokenness, GOD IS GOOD.
We have not yet walked through this shadowy value my friends walk today, but everyone’s valley is their’s to trod. I pray no one need walk these paths alone, but in the company of fellow believers in Christ whose prayers and tears are like a warm blanket in winter, reminding them of the HOPE that is in Jesus.
My heart is heavy, broken, and shaken today … but not my faith. GOD IS GOOD! And one day the pain and suffering of this life will not only be over, but the fruits of its labor will be realized when we see His face and are fully made a reflection of Him.
I weep with my brothers and sisters in the loss of their son, but I glory in the Truth that he knew Jesus and his suffering has reached its fulfillment… Through my tears I rejoice that he has now realized at least part of Paul’s final goal; he knows Him and is with Him. I long for the day when we will experience with him the FULL power of the resurrection.