Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In the Face of Tragedy

Tragedy has a very personal face. An impersonal tragedy doesn't exist. I know many of these faces, here in Dulce and elsewhere through my life. I have been the face of tragedy at certain points in my past.
FROG (Fully Rely On God) is 12x12 inches. $100.00

I know the faces of mothers and fathers who lost beloved children to cancer... to accidents... to drugs... to murder...

I know the faces of wives who have lost their husbands too soon... and of husbands lost without their wives...

I know the faces of grandparents who are struggling to raise grandchildren damaged by violence...

I know the faces of women who want to be called "mom" and of men who want to be called "dad" so badly that every breath hurts...

I know the faces of children who have lost parents to death or imprisonment or apathy...

I know the faces of husbands and wives who have been betrayed...

And I know that you know these faces, too. Some of you have been these faces at certain points in your life. Tragedy is personal.

So what do we do, as Christians, when we are present in the face of tragedy?? How do we respond when someone reveals their personal tragedy??

My first answer, on the morning of the latest tragedy in our congregation here, came in Austin Bridges' song, Hold On to Jesus. We hold on to Jesus, and that's true. We cling to the truths given to us by the Bible: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13); "All things are possible for one who believes." (Mark 9:23); and "...we know that for those who love God all things work together for good..." (Romans 8:28)

But what about those times when we don't have the energy to hold on to Jesus?? What about those tragedies that seem to have no possibility of good?? What about the times when our strength fails completely?
I've been there.

And I've been with some as they faced those kinds of tragedies.

What then??

I think the answer is much deeper than "hold on to Jesus," as good as that is. Because when we have no more to give, no prayers to say, no strength to share, no silver-lining to glimpse...

Jesus holds on to us.

We don't have to do anything. We are His, and He loves us. He holds us in our tragedies; he carries us through the dark valleys. Romans 8:26 says, "Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

We don't have to have words to soothe the face of tragedy. We don't have to have answers or platitudes... or even hope. We are His. 

Jesus holds on to us.

Amen. And amen.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Life and Death

I'm sure you've heard about Brittany Maynard, the young woman who was afflicted with a horrific brain cancer and chose to "die with dignity." It's been fairly public, and lots of opinions are flying around extolling or condemning her choice.

I've also read quite a bit lately of another young woman, Lauren Hill, also suffering from brain cancer, who achieved her goal of playing basketball at the college level. The NCAA actually moved a game up two weeks so Lauren would be more likely to be able to play. She made the first basket of this NCAA season. She is deteriorating quickly, but she is living her days.

And I'm mulling over these two situations as more than two hundred people gather at our church, just across the yard, for the funeral of a beloved sister in Christ who died unexpectedly on Friday last week. She  was praising God at a revival meeting just two days prior to her death. (It is not custom here to bring children to funerals, or I would be there, too.)

I'm sure I'll surprise some folks when they read that I am in support of Brittany Maynard's right to choose her death. I disagree with her that it is the best choice, but I am in support of her right to make that decision. I don't believe that my (or anyone else's!) religious beliefs should dictate public policy.

Because I am Christian, I believe that God has ordained my days, that I will have His work to do here on Earth until my death. I don't consider suicide or "death with dignity" a mortal sin that prohibits a person from entering heaven, but I don't consider that God would require me to stay alive by any means possible, either.

So, in this considering of life and death, I find myself hoping that I don't ever have to face a terminal brain cancer. I've seen what it can do, and I don't want to go there. But, if my God ordains that road for me, I will do as Lauren Hill has done and try to live every single day I am given. I will attempt to encourage my family and friends with my faith in God's plan. Who knows what blessing my life could provide in my last days? Only God. And I will trust Him.

I find myself hoping for a death like that of my Christian sister whose funeral was held today. Not that I seek a high number of mourners, but that my mourners will be celebrating my promised resurrection.We are still sad at our loss, but we know she is with her God.

I want to live for my Lord, Jesus Christ. And I want to die for Him, too. I pray that all people facing terminal illnesses can find their strength in Him.