My God my God, why have you abandoned me. Matthew 27:46
I had a Holy Week post all planned but then life took a different turn. Readers can always count on reality and raw truth when they stop by to read the Joyful Words blog. Another thing you can count on is that from time to time the post isn't exactly joyful; today is one of those days. The scripture verse from Matthew has real meaning for our small town this week and I think God has a reply to those of us pondering the way that verse relates to the lives of the hurting. When a beautiful couple in their late forties heads off on a spring vacation and they die in a tragic accident on their way, you have questions for God!
Jim and Tonya were full of life. They were great parents, great neighbors and great friends. They worked hard, prayed hard and played hard. They raised three wonderful kids to young adulthood. They spent years going to games and school events supporting their kids and everyone else kids right along with their own. Tonya always came with her bubbly personality and her infectious smile and Jim was always good for a great laugh. I’ll never forget being at a baseball game huddled under blankets watching our sons play baseball on a 35 degree spring day in Michigan. It was so cold the boys were actually wearing the coats that came with their uniforms. Those coats were so old that Jim shouted to the players to check their pockets and see if they could find a “Vote for Regan” button. Loosing Jim and Tonya will leave a hole in this community for sure!
Tonya was one of the blogs biggest supporters and most Monday and Thursday mornings she would be the first “like” or comment on a new post. More than once I have thought that the blog might have “run it’s course” and just as if she knew, she would call or message me and randomly offer the encouragement I needed to keep writing. A couple of years ago I wrote a post at the beginning of Lent that touched Tonya’s heart. It’s funny that the words from that post, offer comfort and hope to my heart tonight. That post talked about a simple way to approach difficulties and call on God’s help. It seems completely relevant today so I’ll share that prayer and how we might use it to find hope and peace as we lean hard on God this week. The prayer is four simple lines; I can’t, You can, You promised, Please do.
I Can’t …I can’t understand, I can’t comprehend, I can’t believe all that happened in the blink of an eye. I can’t believe you could let this happen, I can’t imagine how difficult it will be for those three kids and the families that loved them. I can’t do anything right now…but I don’t have to…because YOU will.
You Can…You can bring triumph out of tragedy, you can make all things new, you can bring hope to the hopeless and comfort to those who suffer greatly. You can bring mercy and grace and forgiveness to any circumstance or situation if we invite you in. Please come Jesus, we need you…we need all you can do, and will do in the grief and the hurt.
You Promised…You promised to never leave us, and to always love us. You promised that if we trust in you, goodness and blessing will follow us all of our days. When you created us in your image, and claimed us in the waters of Baptism, you made the promise of eternal life with you. You promised and we will remind ourselves that you are a God who always keeps his promises.
Please Do…Please do what you promised and wrap Jim and Tonya in your loving arms and grant them eternal rest. Please rain down your comfort and your love and your understanding on all those who are hurting. Please give us hope and strengthen our faith. Please do a great job loving us hard and putting people in our path that will support and love and care for the ones with hearts heavy with grief.
I know Tonya prayed this prayer often and I know she shared it with others, especially with her son Hayden. The prayer touched his heart too; so much in fact, he has those four simple lines tattooed on his arm as a constant reminder of what to do and how to call on the Lord. I still giggle about the night he texted me and asked me to proofread the words before he got it inked on his arm; he told me he wanted to make sure he’d always remember the words. From now on I think I’m going to call it “Tonya’s Prayer” and I’ll think of it as her final lesson.
As we focus this Holy Week on these words from Jesus, we have to remember that God didn't abandon His Son and He will never abandon us. His love and mercy are far greater than our emotions. In those moments when the pain and the grief make us feel alone and abandoned, those are precisely the moments we need to be assured of the Father's presence and his desire to meet us in the middle of the pain and messiness of our life.
A Seed To Plant: Please take a minute to offer prayers for the souls of Jim and Tonya and for their children Halie, Hayden and Reece as well as the rest of their families.
Blessings on your day!
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