What do you do when really bad things happen? When you lose your job, or get a frightening medical diagnosis, or someone you love is injured or even actually dies? Do you fall apart, or are you grounded in Someone who keeps you from losing yourself?
“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.” (Ephesians 3:16)
Just over a week ago, my mother died. She had been my mother for fifty years—all of my life—and even though she had dementia and was going downhill, it still seems unreal. There are times, usually at night after everyone else has gone to sleep, when I sit in bed and just cry and cry and cry.
Yet through it all—through the last week of her life when it became apparent that she might not recover and come home—through the anguishing early morning when she stopped breathing and the decision had to be made to place her on life support—to the next day when it became obvious that part of her mind might have been affected, and I tried and tried to talk her into staying with us, to want to not leave us—to that last day when her heart actually stopped–I wasn’t alone.
Emotionally, I was alone, because I was her only child and my dad had passed on before. There was no one else to really make the difficult decisions, and no relative close enough to physically take me in their arms and say, “It’s okay; it’s really going to be okay.” Yet as the unthinkable unfolded before me, I wasn’t alone. The writer of the most famous psalm, Psalm 23, expressed it well: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (vs. 4) Through the worst of it, God was there.
It is inevitable that at some point in our lives—perhaps at several, or even multiple, points in our lives—bad things will happen. These are not times we look forward to, and quite honestly, we would probably avoid them at all costs. Yet these moments—the moments when we realize that our world is crumbling around us and we can’t do anything to make it stop—are the pivotal points when we realize that Christ is ultimately all we have—the only One we can rely on to be “…the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), and to pull us through. And though it still hurts, He is enough. It is like the expression used in Psalm 131:2a describes, “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother…”
The problem is that we underestimate God. While we mentally understand that He loves us and cares what happens to us, when bad things happen, like Job, we tend to question Him. And all too frequently, we fail to understand some truths about life.
We fail to comprehend that we live in a sinful, fallen world in which bad things happen. It really isn’t an issue of if something painful will confront us at some point in our lives, but when. We need to understand that while we are promised that in heaven “…God will wipe away every tear from their eye; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4), this life does have pain.
We also need to understand that God’s goal is not to keep us from that pain, but to conform us to the image of Christ. Romans 8:29 clearly tells us that, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” So while our desire is to avoid sadness, God allows us difficult experiences to turn us into people who evidence the presence of the Spirit of Christ in their lives.
Yet through it all, He loves us. The famous passage tells us, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword?…Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
So as we pass through the miserable, and even the unbearable, He allows us to persevere and not lose ourselves. Most importantly, as He walks beside us, He allows us to not lose our intimacy and relationship with Him. To the contrary, our understanding of His love for and faithfulness to us grows. We come to realize, in its starkest terms, the truth of the song we sing in worship:
In the morning, when I rise, In the morning, when I rise, In the morning, when I rise, Give me Jesus.
When I am alone, When I am alone, When I am alone, Give me Jesus.
And when I come to die, When I come to die, When I come to die, Give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus, Give me Jesus, You can have all this world, But give me Jesus.
Even though we don’t want these seasons in our lives, use them to help us grow in our appreciation of the fact that You, really, are all we need. Amen.