Wednesday, October 19, 2016

So much pain

There is so much pain in the world, sometimes I don't know how we make our way.

This morning, the 25-year-old son of some friends of ours died.

I guess he actually died last week.  He was working, and a concrete wall fell on him, crushing him.  He's been on life support at the hospital, but this morning they removed his ventilator after a certain period of monitoring his brain activity (there wasn't any).

My heart is broken.

It's been a hard autumn.  Today it is raining, which seems fitting, a relief almost.  Perhaps all creation is weeping with those who weep today.

Earlier this month, the 44-year-old brother of a friend of mine died from alcoholism.  His was a long, slow death, and I suppose the death certificate reads something else, like sepsis or kidney failure.  A tragically painful life took its final downturn.  Unrealized hopes and dreams, joys never experienced.  Yet, in this case, a day or two before he departed, he prayed with the hospital chaplain and asked the Lord to forgive him and save him.

God help us all.  God have mercy on us all.  Some days I just repeat this over and over, thankful that I can.  God, Father of mercy, sweet Lord Jesus, please help us all.

Earlier this fall, a young couple from New York lost their baby, their gorgeous 2-year-old baby boy, in a drowning accident.  Face down in an otherwise picturesque pond, their pride and joy.  If it were me, how many times would I relive that day, the hours that led up to the tragedy, thinking through all the details I could have changed, and how any one of them could have prevented the accident?  How many times would I wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding?  How many times would I lie in bed trying to push unwelcome thoughts out of my conscious mind, trying to sleep, yet afraid to dream?

There you have it.  In the case of the 2-year-old there is a mirage, a presumption that someone ought to have had control of the situation, but we never have control.  We do not number our own days, nor do we number the days of anyone else.  We love, tend, nurse, wash and feed.  We sing and rock, tickle and groom.  We do our best to protect.  In the end, we simply cannot be there every minute.  We cannot see everything that happens, and we cannot hold back calamity.  This is the truth.

In the case of the 25-year-old, I struggle with my greatest fears, because I have two sons, and one is 25.  The other is 21.  I pray for them every day, but this event reminds me that I have no control.  I am not present to protect them in any way; I am physically removed from the overwhelming majority of their lives.  I must relinquish them to God and trust in Him, however He chooses to number their days.

Dear sweet Jesus, how I recoil from the thought of getting a phone call that tells me, "Your son has been in a bad accident.  Please come quickly."  Oh, dear Jesus.  Please help all the people.  Please help us all.

I know that the holy scriptures tell us that our hope is not in this life.  In this world we will have trouble, He tells us, but take heart, for Jesus has overcome the world.

Dear sweet Jesus, it is so hard for us to take heart.  We are only dust (Psalm 103:14).  Please help us.

Jesus wept, the Bible tells us (John 11:35).  When Lazarus died, and Jesus saw the people mourning, He wept for them, for us, for the pain we experience in the dark brokenness of this world.  He knows all the glory and joy that He has prepared for us in the future, but He understands our pain in the present, and He has compassion on us.

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him." (Psalm 103:13 NIV)

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV)

Jesus Himself faced a trial that seemed too overwhelming.  He faced the cross.  On the night of His death, shortly before He was crucified, Jesus prayed that, if it were possible, His Father would take the cup from Him.  He was in anguish.  He pleaded and sweat drops of blood.  God the Father did not take away the cup, because there was no other way for His purpose to be accomplished.  However, He did send an angel from heaven to help Jesus through the night.

Help us, Lord Jesus.  Please send your ministering angels to help us in our pain.

Jesus died so that we could live.  His death bought us eternal life.  He suffered under our sins so that we could be clothed in His righteousness.

We also suffer so that others can attain eternal life.  We suffer because the world goes on.  The world will be broken until Jesus returns, ushering in the New Heaven and the New Earth.  Once the New Creation comes, all the old things will be gone, passed away.  It will be too late for any more people to repent.  This is why the broken world goes on, with all its pain and sorrow: because after this world is replaced, after all that is broken is fixed, no more people will have an opportunity to turn to the Lord.

The Lord's desire is that all men should come to a saving knowledge of the truth and put their faith in Jesus (1 Timothy 2:3-4).  He is not willing that any should perish, but He waits patiently for people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus knows all of our troubles.  Jesus knows the right time to act.  Jesus knows the perfect time to act.  Jesus never makes mistakes.  Someday, when we get to heaven, we will see how all these dark, painful circumstances weave into the tapestry of God's plan to create beauty and joy.  He promises that He works all things for good (Romans 8:28).  Such a difficult promise to grasp, when so many things are ugly and awful.

Please, Lord Jesus, help us when the pain clouds our vision and the darkness threatens our faith.

"Today you shall be with me in paradise," said Jesus to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43).  He is the Savior of the world, pouring out abundant grace on all who will receive it, waiting and watching and calling for His children to come home to Him.

It doesn't matter what you've done, or what's been done to you, or where you've been, or how long you've been away.  You can even come to Him the day or the minute before you die (although you lose out on a lot of peace and joy if you wait).  All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.  He will bring us home.

"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and will be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  (Revelation 21:3-4 NIV)

Help us, Lord God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, Healer and Deliverer.  Help us to hope, to believe, to walk in faith until the day when we see You in Your unveiled glory, facing us. 

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