Matthew, my brother, adopted by my parents as an infant, often felt unloved, but yesterday, in an ICU unit in Newark, NJ – I sat with him as he made the transit from this life to the other side of the River praying that he felt God’s love and mine in those moments. I cannot make the awful into sweet, nor will I sugarcoat the bitter with platitudes. But I will hold onto faith that is greater than death itself.
Sorrow is not a stranger to me. The separation of death has visited too often in this last decade. And, too, we who are shepherds to God’s people are asked to walk alongside of people who are feeling loss, who are afraid, who are dying.
As I mourned Matthew’s life, the Psalms filled my thoughts – “You have fed us with sorrow and made us drink tears by the bucketful.” (Psalm 80:5, NLT) “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.” (Psalm 42:3-6, NIV) Those are so much more than poems. They are the anguished prayers, ancient and inspired words that let the soul breathe and grieve.
I know my path is not unique. Suffering comes to all, one way or another. Creation is broken by sin. Evil has its day. Satan is at war against good and God. Yet, even though tears come and my heart is full of questions, I hold onto the story of the Suffering Savior, God come to save us– from our sins and from the destiny of destruction.
Oh, Jesus, I believe, help me overcome the fears, the questions, as You defeat the darkness.
I have murmured – “May your Kingdom come, Your will be done…” because I know that when His kingdom comes, tears will dry. When the struggle’s over, God will draw us close and dry our tears! “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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 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.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5, NIV)
This morning, I am tearless, but my soul aches. Grief is real and it is a fool’s game to try to hide it, avoid it, or cover it over with diversion. I will wait on God. I will allow the love of friend and family to comfort me. I will pray to avoid becoming pitiful, or selfish, or despairing. Instead, I pray that the crush of sorrow will release the fragrance of Jesus in me. And this – I will look beyond to the promise that “He will wipe every tear” from our eyes. Years ago, Gordon Jensen wrote this memorable line in a Gospel song, “God weeps along with man and takes him by the hand, tears are a language God understands.”
Are the tears ready to fall today?
Has disappointment, pain, unrelenting struggle with the curse of sin – nearly broken you?
Go ahead and cry. Find a place alone with Him and let the tears that fall become a wordless prayer for renewal of hope, for healing, for forgiveness. Then, with courage, take His grace, and go on. Choose faith, choose life, choose to live with the mystery of incomplete understanding on this side of Eternity.
Here is a word from the Word. “Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. … You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Psalm 30:4-5, 11-12, NIV)
Death be not proud,
though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for,
thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think’st,
thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death,
nor yet canst thou kill mee.
-John Donne, 16th century English poet