Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Of Grief and Despair. And Hope.

Tragedy struck our town this week. 3 young men were involved in a car accident. One of them, a 16 year old named Kynan Barrett, was killed. I didn't know Kynan. But those who did speak very highly of him. They speak of his friendliness to others, of his infectious smile. Teachers speak of his great attitude, and they joy they took from teaching him. When tragedy strikes, when our hearts break, our minds are flooded with questions. We wonder how this could happen, we wonder why it did happen?

I know those questions well. In August of 2007, Kelly and I moved back to Arkansas after pastoring in Oklahoma for 2 years. We had an incredible time there; the people at First Baptist Church in Wakita were amazing; they were patient with a 25 year old who knew nothing of how to shepherd a flock. They loved us and took care of us and we treasure the memories we made there. At the same time, we were excited about being close to family again. I was especially thrilled to be close to my grandmother again. Grandma practically raised me and I looked forward to being close to her again, and making sure that Lily had a great relationship with her great-grandmother. 2 weeks after coming back to Arkansas Grandma suffered a massive heart attack and died. To make matters worse, she died the night before I was to leave for a 10 day preaching trip to Kenya. There was no way I could attend her funeral. And in the days that followed I wondered, "Why would God do that? Couldn't He have waited until I got back? Couldn't He at least have let me be there for the funeral? Why did I only get 2 weeks with her? After all, I was serving Him the previous 2 years."

None of it made any sense to me. But what sustained me through that time, and what will sustain each of us through the tragedies of life, is knowing that even when things don't make sense to us they still make sense to God. Or said another way, "why?" is the wrong question to ask. The right question is, "Even though this doesn't make sense to me, does it make sense to God?" And please don't misunderstand; I'm not suggesting that we never go to our Father and tell Him we don't understand. I'm suggesting that what will sustain us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death is not grasping for answers that we could probably never understand anyway. What will sustain us is knowing that even if I can't understand it, I serve a God who can. I serve a God who is able to work all things together for good. I serve a God who is able to use all things--even my times of heartbreak and despair--for His glory.

C.S. Lewis said, "...if God is wiser than we His judgment must differ from ours on many things...What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil." The question in any time of tragedy is this; is God wiser than I? If the answer is no, then we despair without hope. But if the answer is yes then we despair-but with hope. We despair knowing that even in the midst of our heartbreak God is working out all things according to His sovereign goodness. That even if I'm facing something that I would never have chosen for myself, God has chosen it for me. And He is a Great and loving King, a King in whose hands I have placed my very eternity. And I've trusted Him with my future--I can trust Him with my present.

To those who mourn in times of tragedy I say, mourn. But not as those who have no hope. Cry for your loneliness and weep for the emptiness in your heart. But rejoice in a God who is so great that He is able to take unspeakable tragedies and work from them unspeakable goodness. There is no greater example than the cross of Christ. At Calvary, the Creator lay down His life for His creation. He died in their place, killed at their hands. Is there a greater tragedy than this? Morally, philosophically, is there a greater tragedy than a loving and benevolent Creator being murdered by those who created Him? And yet from this great tragedy comes great hope. For when Jesus arose victoriously from the grave, salvation was secured for all who would receive it. And if God is able to take the greatest tragedy and work from it the greatest miracle, the miracle of redemption, how much more can we trust Him to work out these light and momentary afflictions for His everlasting glory?

Father, thank You for being so much greater and wiser than we. Thank You for knowing all things and being surprised by nothing. Thank You for being so great and so amazing that You can take the heartbreak and tragedies we face and somehow work them out for Your eternal glory. Thank You for taking the greatest tragedy-the death of King Jesus-and using it to bring about redemption for all who will receive it. Comfort us when we mourn, strengthen us when we are weak, and help us to look to You for our joy, our comfort, and our peace. Amen.

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