We’ve received news in recent weeks of the passing or entering into hospice of several close friends, ones who are way too young to die at least in human terms. My wife’s brother Paul died at age sixty two years ago. There are other challenges people we know are facing that I just don’t understand. And I would guess we’re not unique and that many of you reading this post are experiencing similar circumstances.
As I said, I don’t get most of these situations. Why do seemingly good people with spouses, kids, grandkids and many good years left to serve God and others pass away before their time? Why couldn’t evil people have taken their place and my friends and loved ones been spared, avoiding the grief that they themselves and/or their families are now facing?
And yes, there are legitimate, spiritual, bigger picture answers some of which we can understand to a point and others we must leave to God. I’m not going to re-visit those here. They can be helpful but that’s not my focus for now.
Instead I want to simply offer a few suggestions for any of us who are facing these tough, hard-to-understand losses that won’t take away the pain but will perhaps do something in us that we might miss otherwise.
First, don’t wait to embrace every moment with those you love. By embrace I mean that we slow down, hear their stories, enjoy the experiences and not rush to the next thing. I realize that this sounds like a prediction that these people are going to die soon. It can seem like the reason we don’t want to buy life insurance but it’s not. In fact this is one way that we insure that we don’t miss out on real life.
Now is the time to experience relationship at its fullest not later.
Second, accept that there are a lot of events we don’t understand and won’t change. Am I suggesting that Christians shouldn’t pray for healing and other miracles or that God never gives them? Of course not. He does still do what seems impossible but that’s not always His answer or choice for us or those we care about.
Too many Christians demand, claim or promise God’s response to what THEY want and then look foolish or respond with silly answers as to why their friend or loved one didn’t survive. God is God and He does things beyond our understanding, things that hurt, grieve and confuse.
Third, be Jesus to those who are hurting. Yes, Jesus healed many when He was on earth, but not all. He also wept when his friend Lazarus died. He loved the unlovely, the grieving and the lost. Sometimes our faith will discover its deepest meaning and growth in the fertile soil of pain and loss. We may find Jesus most tender and real through our tears, not just our smiles.
This is the time when those facing the worst need us to be at our Christian best, not perfect, but caring, loving and listening.