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The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord on me. I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days-deeply distressed.
~Ezekiel 3:14-15 (NIV)~
From where I sit, it is easy for me to say that God is in control and that there is a reason for what happened in Boston yesterday. It is easy because I didn’t lose someone. I didn’t lose my sense of security. I didn’t have the rug jerked out from under me as I attended an event that was intended to celebrate the endurance of the human spirit. The impact of this tragedy for those directly involved in it is in no way diminished by the fact that I know my God and how powerful He is and that I’m sure He has a plan for every single thing that happens in this world; the good, the bad, and the horrific. This fact only makes it easier for me to cope with hearing about what happened. But for those who were a part of it, God’s presence and involvement in the thing can be very confusing.
As it happens, there are many horrible things that happen outside the boundaries of my bubble of faith each and every day. People experience pain and loss and try to make sense of it from where they are at the time of impact. Sometimes they are at a place where they can trust that God has it in His hands; sometimes they cannot fathom how God could ever let something like this happen. It really depends on our perspective and on what we have come to know about Him and His desire for us when the thief shows up to kill, steal and destroy.
There have been many tragedies in my life; some that I have brought on myself and some that I was involved in through no real fault of my own. Through these times, I remember asking myself why these things were happening to me. I remember being very confused about why God would allow these things to happen to me. I also remember that these questions came at times when I had put such distance between He and I that it was as if I had entered the Witness Protection Program. How could I ever expect Him to find me when I spent much of my time and energy running away from Him or putting up roadblocks wherever I suspected that He was pursuing me?
When I came back to Him, I found that the things I had once blamed Him for and even hated Him for were actually quite necessary to bringing me full circle in my journey. Had I never experienced that grief and pain, I never could have appreciated the grace and mercy. I never could have seen the blessings that He had bestowed upon me even in my darkest hours. The very fact that I woke up every morning was no testimony to the life that I had lead. It was all due to the magnificent grace of an ever-merciful and patient God who wanted nothing more than for me to gain redemption. His tolerance of my inability to accept the salvation that Christ died to give me is unparalleled. And if He has been so forgiving for just me, what does that say of His willingness to wait for the whole of humanity to come around?
There are many things which we cannot know; we cannot see the reasons why things play out in the manner that they do without acknowledging God’s hand in all things. Yes, He wants us to be happy. Yes, He wants to show us His love. But by the same token, He expects our devotion to Him and He is angered by the lack of that devotion that He sees in this world. Undoubtedly, we are approaching a time in which there will be many unexplainable events that represent God’s wrath on a disobedient nation. But His wrath is reserved for the ungodly; for the evil that exists in this world. It is not God who seeks to destroy us. And for all who are caught in the crossfire between good and evil; know that He will protect His children. For those beautiful spirits who are lost in the darkness, He seeks to bring you out by any means necessary. If this be through grief or loss, then please know that this is necessary and that He will bring you beauty for your ashes.
My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones yesterday. I pray that you find comfort in the arms of the Lord and that you not seek to blame Him, but to see and understand Him in all of this. That you take solace in the fact that your loved ones are in God’s hands and that He will avenge your loss. To everyone who has witnessed yet another act of violence at the hands of the wicked, I say that it is time we start to see these things for what they truly are; signs of end times. Not so that you would lose hope; but rather that you would run, full throttle into the arms of Jesus and accept Him as your Savior. Because our tendency is to commiserate with one another when there is any sort of threat or attack; but in reality, the more effective thing to do would be to accept those things as a call to arms. It is time to rise up and fight against those things which permit evil to thrive in our society. He is waiting patiently for us to turn back to Him and allow Him to take us all home. All we need to do is trust Him.
What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—
~Romans 9:22-23 NIV~
Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.
~Psalm 31:9 (NIV)~
We generally hear of the calm before the storm, but in some cases the storm has been raging for so long that we’ve forgotten how that calm looks and feels. Some lives seem destined to be filled with turmoil; one raging storm after another with no time for restoration in between. I pray that this was not the case for my friend, Corey, who passed away unexpectedly last week. He was a weary soul; but one who had much love in his heart. I loved him like my own brother and I miss him.
When I got the call telling me that he was gone, I was in shock. It didn’t seem possible that this person whom I had come to value so much could be taken so quickly and without warning. I immediately thought about the void that this would leave in my life and how we never got to do all of the things we talked about doing. As I thought about this, my heart went from aching for the person I had lost to aching for what he had lost. And then I remembered what he had finally gained; peace and freedom from the pain he hadn’t been able to escape here on earth.
It’s funny how even in the passing of our loved ones, our focus is usually more about our loss than about the pain they endured and all of the things which led to their passing. We forget sometimes, as we get caught up in how making time for others can be so pressing in our schedules, that the little bit of time we are able to spend with those we love might just be enough to keep them from falling deeper into hopelessness. We treat our little contributions as great Christlike sacrifices and we place no value on the pain they may be suffering; shrugging it off as “their mess” or “their problem.” This may not be true in all cases, but there are those in our lives that get only the portion of our love which we feel they deserve. Usually, these are the people who need it the most, yet we withhold. How we arrive at our assessment of what they are entitled to is a mixture of past hurts, the context of our journey with them and where our ego leads us. And that assessment generally fails to consider just how broken they really are because if we acknowledge their brokenness, we may well have to acknowledge our own.
I guess I’m saying all of this in hopes that you’ll reconsider the energy you are giving to your relationships. That you may never look back and wonder if you could have done more or been more for that person. That the time you spend with them doesn’t lift you up in your own mind as some sort of martyr; but that it would lift them up and give them the incentive to do the same for others. Let your love for one another do more than simply scratch the surface. Understand them, sympathize with them. Attempt to care more about them than about what you may be missing if you take a little more time to care. It’s better to truly be there for someone when they really need you than to look around later and find that it’s no longer an option.
So for my “brother”, I hope your pain is finally healed. I hope you have been restored and that you know how much you are missed and how much you were loved, even by those who couldn’t show you. Rest in peace, dear. I’ll see you on the other side.
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
~Isaiah 58:8 (NIV)~