With tears brimming she explained how she was beginning to see God in the midst of dealing with her son's death. And although she couldn't get through the reading herself, she urged one of the women at our table to read us an excerpt from a little book she was holding close. We listened intently because our dear friend was suffering and whatever she wanted us to hear was, in my estimation, going to hurt that good kind of hurt.
The author wrote of a grateful woman who had the bountiful blessings of a good husband and a sweet child. Her life was beautiful and she knew to Whom all her thanksgiving belonged. She praised God every day for all of His gifts to her. One day her child grew ill and despite her earnest prayers for his healing, he died. She cried out to her Maker, the Giver all good gifts. Why had He allowed this terrible tragedy to happen to her? How could the loving God she has worshipped and honoured with her thanks turn so cruel? The reading went on to point out just Who the woman had been worshiping. Was God was still sovereign, still loving, still giving, still powerful, whether her son lived or died? When she was giving thanks for her life, and praising this incredible Lord, had she considered that if things changed in her life that it would change who God is? Had He changed or had her perception of who He is changed? Could she say, "Blessed be the Name of the Lord", if He gave or took away? Had the merciful act of sending His only Son to rescue the world, disintegrated into nothing because of earthly pain? Is it God's intention to bestow continuous blessings upon His people and make them happy?
My heart beat quickly as the excerpt was finished. The words hung in the air like a damp fog. Some of the women were nodding, others, I'm sure, were soaking in the profound simplicity of this truth that hurt that good hurt--the comfort--and pain of knowing we're not in control. Our friend tucked the book back in her purse and thanked us for obliging her. I swallowed the lump in my throat and among others, thanked her for sharing what our faith is built upon. She explained that had she not received the knowledge of God's immutable character into her heart years before, she would have surely turned from Him at this time of great grieving. I whispered thanksgiving in my spirit that the same truth my friend confessed, had helped me see God's love and mercy in the midst of great pain and confusion I had suffered through at a difficult time in my life. I prayed for even greater acceptance of His unchanging love so that He would be glorified in whatever future trials I would encounter. My friend's life is an example of just that--glorifying the Father in her story--which, in turn, is giving her peace.
Later, I sat with my children close by me on the couch while I continued our "read-aloud", Little Pilgrim's Progress, a children's version of John Bunyan's classic work. "Little Christian" was witnessing his companion, "Faithful", being bravely martyred for Christ and I began to weep. The words blurred on the page and my two big girls cried too. I breathed deeply and slowly finished the paragraph. Oh, how I longed for them to receive this incredible insight I had been grasping! Jesus' gift of His death on the cross was worth believing in, living for and even dying for. It's this foundational truth that they can hang their hope on, that will help them get through any struggle--not easily--but with peace and eventually, joy.
Since my Creator often feeds me His truth in threes, I shook my head as once again, the message of His resurrection stirred even more in my heart. These words in John Piper's book, Don't Waste Your Life, blazed brightly today: "... all your rejoicing in all things should therefore be a rejoicing in the cross where all your blessings were purchased for you at the cost of the death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ... One of the reasons we are not as Christ-centered and cross-saturated as we should be is that we have not realized that everything--everything good, and everything bad that God turns for the good of his redeemed children--was purchased by the death of Christ for us. We simply take life and breath and health and friends and everything for granted. We think it is ours by right." (p51). This is what this dear momma was humbly offering to us. Although, she cried out and questioned God, her belief in the immutable character of a loving God, who gave His only Son, was the only thing that kept her from drowning in sorrow. He alone is in control, but praise God, He is deeply in love with His people!
As Easter approaches, my heart is ever closer to the knowledge of who He is and why He came and how Jesus' resurrection offers the ability to live knowing we are loved, regardless of what this world may bring. And ultimately, we will receive eternal life, where we will glorify the One from Whom all gifts--the good--and the bad that God turns for the good--are given.