The past 10 days I’ve been saddened to tears several times as I think about my father-in-law, Steve Norman, being taken from this world. I’m sad that I won’t see him again until I, too, leave this world. I’m sad that the world is down a rare, good man. I’m sad I won’t be able to offer him another cup of coffee, or a spicy sauce, or enjoy making him laugh. I’m sad I won’t be able to need his assistance and be met with his generous acts of kindness. I’m sad that my mother-in-law is a widow. And I’m sad that with God’s intervention this all could’ve been turned around so easily at any point.
But it’s that last point that gives me some peace that it was somehow his time to go. I know – it sounds trite and I don’t believe it’s an appropriate sense to vocalize for everyone’s passing – but this has been a peculiar sense felt by several of us in the family. That had he stayed, something worse – even more suffering for longer – may have happened to him. I trust our Master Artist with the tapestry of our lives. It doesn’t soften the blow or keep the tears away, but it lessens the sting a bit when I think about it and gives me respect and gratitude for our “perfect love”, all-knowing God. He cares deeply for each one of us (1 Peter 5:7). He knows what is best for His glory and our lives (Romans 8:28). He is always, only, ever good. And therefore, He is worthy and trustworthy.
Last night, He gave me a dream with regard to all of this. I was crying for Steve in my dream and could feel the sorrow of losing him. I could, and can still, feel it in my stomach. There’s a real, physical pain to losing him and I can only imagine it’s 10x worse for Aura and her children. In the dream I felt led by the Spirit to play the piano and sing the old praise and worship chorus, Give Thanks, by Henry Smith.
“Give thanks with a grateful heart Give thanks to the Holy One Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ His Son
And now let the weak say I am strong Let the poor say I am rich Because of what the Lord has done for us
In the dream, as I sat down to play, Aura was present and said something to me along the lines of, “It’s a blessing that you are obeying the Spirit.” As I played and sang, we cried about losing Steve but there was also crying of gratitude for what Jesus did for us on the cross – that the Father’s greatest gift to us, forgiveness through His son, is a gain that far exceeds – and ultimately limits – any loss we will ever know. There was such a deep joy as we sang with gratitude for the gift of God that is Jesus.
This is perhaps the secret the apostle Paul learned (Phil. 4:12) – how to be content in any circumstance: by holding up pain, suffering, humiliation, trauma, and loss to the overwhelming grace and gain of eternal forgiveness, peace, and life through the gift of God’s son.
In contrast, “What good is it to gain the whole world but forfeit your soul?” (Jesus in Luke 9:25). The inverse of the same sentiment is also true – the greatest pain and loss in this life is small and fleeting compared to the eternal joy that awaits us because of what is gained in Jesus.
Additionally, it’s a reminder that if God hadn’t “so loved the world that he gave his only son” (John 3:16) then we would all perish – and worse, we would continue to experience the pain, sadness, loneliness, suffering, and trauma over and over again for all eternity. There would be no end to suffering and sorrow. The gift of His son puts a time boundary on all that is broken in this world – for those who have believed and received Him (John 1:9). It hasn’t been fully consummated yet, but it is as sure to come as with the first advent of Christ.
The hope of the Gospel of Jesus does not imply or suggest a message to dismiss or downplay how hard and hurtful and painful life is. In fact, we are wired – and commanded – to weep. But we have hope because He came once and He will come again. Our present reality is not the end of the story. Jesus paid for it all and “it is finished.” This is why we can give thanks at all times and in everything (1 Thess. 5:18).
Our hope is not that everything will be made perfect during our lifetime – although He certainly does heal and redeem many things while we’re alive, and we are commanded, expected, and always welcome to pray for His divine intervention now. But our hope is that at the end of time He will redeem and restore all things. He will right every wrong. He will wipe away every tear (Rev. 7:17). Again, the apostle Paul muses that our present sufferings are not even worthy of being compared to the future glory we will experience (Romans 8:18).
And therefore, even as we weep and mourn and offer up a lament for all the brokenness we see and experience (and even to which we contribute) throughout our lives, we do so with a heart of gratitude “because of what the Lord has done for us.”