Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:18-23 (NLT)
A little over a year ago I published a blog article titled Heartbreak, Groaning, and The Not-As-It-Should-Be World. In this post, I talked about "suffering with Christ" as walking along with people as they experience the not-rightness of our fallen world. I opened the post by pointing out that "In fact, the first few chapters of the book of Romans spell out how all the world has become affected by this not-right-ness, to the point where no person can claim to be as they should be, and the result is death. Death in both body and spirit, spiritual deadness resulting from being disconnected from the source of all life, God, and ultimately, subject to decay and physical death as a visible demonstration of the effects of this not-right-ness.
The last few weeks have been a painful reminder to us of this very poignant truth. About a month ago, we lost one of our former Set-Free disciples who had moved to San Diego. He left a rehab center and was robbed, beaten, and left for dead in an alley behind a store. Carr was yet another victim of the Roller Coaster of addiction that has claimed so many lives in our circle over the last several years. Only a few weeks later, we received word from another one of our brothers, that his wife had suddenly passed away while on vacation in San Diego. Richard and Jenny have been so very precious to our ministry and have served alongside us faithfully. No words can express the sorrow that we feel over the sudden and unexpected loss of our precious sister and no words can comfort the husband and teenage son who are left without her presence.
As if these losses were not enough, Last Thursday as we were going through the rehearsal for a dear friends wedding, we received the almost unthinkable news that one of our closest friends had lost their eight-year-old daughter to a freak horse-riding accident. I did officiate the wedding on Friday, and Karen left to be with the family as soon as the ceremony ended. She returned Sunday evening to take me and the rest of the family back to Wyoming for the Funeral/Memorial service yesterday. Monday night we sat with the family and cried and hugged and discovered that there were no answers, no words, nothing that could make things better. We just sat and mourned the loss of our dear beloved Annie, all of us seeking the answer to the unanswerable question "WHY?".
We preach to those who we encounter on the street that God is good. We tell those who are trapped in addiction and sin that God loves them, unconditionally, right where they are at. We pour out our hearts telling those who we serve that God is worthy of our complete trust and that He will always work all things for our ultimate good. And when the not-rightness of this fallen world hits so close to home, we falter. We question the goodness of God. We ask why He could allow such terrible things to happen to those who we love so dearly. Our faith is shaken to its very core, and we weep, we cry out, our hearts break, and we are reminded that none of this is foreign to our God.
You see, in that blog post, I also quoted from Hebrews, which speaking of our high priest Jesus Christ says:
"he understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do" and also "he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered."(NLT)Groanings, pleadings, loud cries, and tears, yeah, that pretty much describes the last few weeks, sometimes literally, and sometimes only crying out on the inside.
The only advice that I could give those who are grieving is that they cannot go this alone. That when the voices of doubt and fear creep in, they need to lean in to their community. When things seem like they are too much to bear, they need to reach out to their Christian brothers and sisters to help bear those burdens. And quite frankly we need to hear this advice ourselves. We cannot bear all of the heartbreak and sorrow on our own. We need our community to rally around us and lift us up in prayer. We need our friends to call us and offer truth, not platitudes, but truth, that God is indeed good, that he does care, and is working things out for our ultimate good. We need people who will listen to us vent and not judge or condemn us for daring to cry out "why".
But mostly, we need people who will just be here with us, present, walking alongside us through the hard things. Because as hard as this is, we are not going to stop going where God calls us, and loving those He brings into our lives. As tough as it is seeing broken lives, damaged by the results of sin, we must continue to follow our calling to bring little pieces of as-it-was-meant-to-be-ness to a world that is completely saturated by not-as-it-should-be-ness. Because sometimes there are no words that can make things right again, and in those times all we have to offer is PRESENCE.