And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Many years ago when my mom died, someone gave me a book titled, “When Bad Things Happen To Good People”. I let it set on my shelf for years without ever so much as opening the front cover. It might have been a spectacular book but I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. I think it had something to do with the connotation that life was good and death was bad and that just didn’t settle well with me. In my estimation, sorting all of life's people and events into “good” and “bad” piles seems like crazy work that would require an awful lot of black and white judgement and we all know that sometime there are circumstances that can make things completely gray.
Our community has been tilted completely out of balance this week by the death of a young man and his father. George was a man who was larger than life. He was humble, funny, generous, a champion for children and underdogs and he was a true disciple of Christ. His son Grant was one of God’s most special ones. His Cerebral Palsy prevented him from speaking but his laughter and squealing delight at something little like the fanning pages of a magazine spoke volumes about the simple beauty of life and showed us all what raw joy looked like. The circumstances of their death has shrouded our community in a veil of sadness, confusion and darkness. It’s hard to find joy in the midst of so much pain and shock. It’s one of those times when you fold your hands over your heart and say, “Father are you there?” It’s one of those times when things aren’t black and white and can’t be neatly sorted into categories.
Our God is a God of mercy, compassion, grace and enormous love. However, when we are in the midst of great suffering we can tend to think he’s abandoned us. When we are overwhelmed with doubt and grief we can think he’s punishing us or letting us flounder. When we are walking in darkness we can think his light simply isn’t big enough or powerful enough to dispel it. The painful truth is, when we are at our lowest we often stop reaching up so he can grab us and lift us up. The painful fog we’re all wading our way through this week isn’t going to envelope us forever and we certainly aren’t the only folks in the world who are suffering so no matter what you might be struggling with, there are some truths to hold on to.
*Christ is present! We can see him in the comfort, support and love shared among his people. Each hug, card, prayer or kind word is motivated by him, planned by him and sent by him to comfort and console. We don’t need to worry about saying the right or wrong thing, we just need to open our arms and wrap the hurting in his love.
*Christ is our Light! He has promised to guide each of us out of the darkness if we but call on him. If you’ve ever been surrounded by darkness and someone turns on a bright light it can be blinding. The power of Christ's light is so much more powerful than that, we have to open our eyes and be guided by that light and not by our own doubt, fear or stubbornness.
*Suffering isn’t a punishment, it’s a gift. We misunderstand that because as humans we don’t like to be uncomfortable but suffering is what unites us to Christ and becoming united with Christ is what draws us to holiness and our home in heaven. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but it is a profound truth. St. Teresa of Avila said, “We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.”
*Faith and trust trump understanding every single time! We will never understand everything that happens in our world. In our human minds we try to sort things into piles and apply logic, reason and understanding. The truth is, we are not able to comprehend much of what goes on around us and the blessing is, we don’t have to. We have to trust the Father who loves us and know he has a plan and that he will never abandon us or leave us to perish.
*A community of believers united in prayer is one of the most powerful forces on earth. Tragedy can unite people in a way nothing else can so we can use these times for powerful good.
*Sometimes there just aren’t any words to make things all better. Even Jesus had to escape the chaos and pain occasionally to go away and pray, we should follow his example and pour out our hearts and invite him to bring his love and healing.
* I think Jesus would want us to remember that sorting and judging is the work of His Father and he doesn’t need our assistance. God can do anything he wants because only HE sees the heart.
*When it all seems too much to bear, just pedal and ask him to steer.
Father, for all who suffer, we ask for your comfort, your peace, your mercy and your love.
A Seed To Plant: Write down the name of someone who is suffering and ask God to give them strength, comfort and peace. And if I may ask, please pray for George, Grant and all those who loved them and feel the pain of their death.
Blessings on your day!
Click on the items below to expand the options available to you to explore the Joyful Words blog.