“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4, NASB95)
I took a couple of days off from writing while working through some things, but even in working through them I was brought face-to-face with the fact that for those who us who are still taking breath, new things do not stop happening.
Have you ever asked, “Why?” Trials, hardships, and heartbreaks sometimes can be quite overwhelming in their intensity and even in their frequency. These past four days in our lives have seemingly grown in both. Thursday I received some disappointing news on a job prospect in which I was very hopeful. Last night I heard of the passing of a friend and the loss to a dear sister in Christ and their children, a man who was her husband, her great love, and her rock (Gerald “Jerry” Jones). And today we got a phone call from one of my three sisters who called distraught to tell me about the death of the middle one of my sisters (Marguerite “Margy” Frances Deason).
But even in this there is insulation as I am not the one there in the middle, and there is little I can do in response. Right now all I can think to do is pray, and there really isn’t anything bigger I can do right now. After all, when it comes to our work and our provision who is it that holds this in His hands—BUT GOD. When it comes to the numbers of the days of our lives, who is there that holds these in His hands—BUT GOD. When it comes to the depth of our grief and the extent of our loss, who is there who understands this more—BUT GOD. All of these are things that we would like to change in some way, but even in this who is there who knows exactly and perfectly what he intends and what is best in the scheme of eternity—BUT GOD.
Last night I saw an email hours after it was sent asking for prayer, which included the words, “Let’s pray for the family of (a husband and wife), that the Father of Mercies and God of Comfort would show Himself faithful to them. In particular let’s ask God to make His comforting presence known to (the wife).”
This is a message that generally carries the meaning that someone has died and someone else is left hurting, and in this context they were husband and wife. Our response was to stop what we were doing and pray. With today’s call my sister was right in the middle of it all and all I could do was entrust her to the hands of her husband and then to pray. Sure, in both there may be things to do in the hours and days go by, but in the moment there was nothing else I could do.
It seems so strange to say that, “All I could do was pray.” But, when we stop to pray, just who is it that we look to? Our God really does understand grief and loss, and His understanding started a very long time ago. In the beginning God created man and woman to have a relationship with Him. It was not one that He needed, but one that he was pleased to bring to pass. And in the midst of that relationship man rebelled and broke that union, leading to God having to drive man out of the garden in spiritual death. Following that God continued to reach out to man, and man continued to reject Him with obvious exceptions which we can rejoice in as we read of them in Scripture.
God knew man was helpless to do anything about it his condition, and that the only thing man could do was to trust in Him who loved them and drew them to Himself. So God, chose to send His Son, who willingly set aside His position with the Father, to be born of a virgin and to be raised as a man knowing hardship and all that comes with life except for one thing—Himself sinning. But it was more than just sending His Son learning to empathize having walked in our shoes. No, His Son went to the cross, voluntarily laying down His own life to pay the penalty for our sins. He paid the price which we could never pay. And this not the end, three days later His Son rose from the dead demonstrating His power over death and with that He showed that He also could give life to all who trust in Him. After showing Himself for many days, He ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father in order to intercede on our behalf. Think of that, when we cry out to God we have a special intercessor in God Himself who hears our prayers and attends to them.
And beyond that, Jesus did not leave us alone as my sister Kathy was distressed that my sister Margy died all alone. Our everywhere-present Heavenly Father sent His Holy Spirit to indwell every single person who places their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. In doing this we not only know the constant presence of our God, but we have the special indwelling presence of His Spirit—indeed making it such that we never are alone in this life.
God did this as a down payment on His promise of eternal life, but also so that we might be empowered to have life here and now. We have a God who knows our needs. He knows the depths of our hurts, and He knows how to bring comfort to those hurts including through the hands, arms, and prayers of others. So, when I say, “All I can do is pray,” I do so thinking and wishing that I could do more at the moment. But at the same time, I also do it knowing that this is also the most important thing I can do, while also searching out what God might have me personally do in response as His child with arms on.
“For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;” (2 Corinthians 1:5–8, NASB95)
I am praying to my God today for my friend Deb and her family and for my sisters (Kathy and Dianne) and our families as we grieve the loss of people we dearly love, but I do so expectantly knowing that my God is faithful to heal our hearts and bring encouragement in the assurance of an eternal hope.