sadness over loss in this world

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

The writer of Ecclesiastes refers to what we might call a mark of one’s character over against holding it as a literal notion that people ought always to be somber, rather than enjoy life and laugh. To say we live in a tragic world would surely be an understatement. Sooner or later all things perish. But it’s especially troubling when either something good is out of place, like the maple tree we had plans for, but which I’m doing away with now, with grief and a heavy heart. Or perfectly in place, but lost.

I am glad we were able to take in a little kitty, which is just as cute as can be: lively, affectionate, and a companion to our other cat. But so many cats are lost, or live difficult lives in this world. Not that I’m a cat lover, although they’ve grown on me a bit, since my wife does love cats.

Yesterday I found myself praying that someday in the new creation this very same maple tree I’m cutting down now might be present in all its glory. Of course in a way trees are a dime a dozen. They’re cut down for all kinds of paper, for furniture, yes for wood burning. And although they are amazing in their biology, they actually are not made in God’s image like humans. Yet we can have an attachment to some of them. I love our Redpointe Maple in the middle of our front yard. The other maple in all its glory is unfortunately not in the best place. We didn’t realize it at the time. Interestingly enough we have what are considered to be weed trees growing more than twenty feet away from the maples near the border of our property. Although we did have them trimmed, we simply can’t afford to cut them down yet, though it would be nice to do so someday, since they potentially affect the growth of the tree we did plant and are the kind of trees that would be better in a forest. I would not grieve their loss at all, but rather, would be relieved if they were gone. But such is life.

We don’t live in an ideal world. All is not well in this world. And we shouldn’t suppose it ever could be, even while we should be doing our best to manage everything well as good stewards of God’s gifts, in love. We accept the good and the bad of this life, and continue on. Believing the new creation has entered creation in the person of Jesus. And looking forward to the new world to come in him (Romans 8:18-22) when all good gifts of God will be in their place never to be lost again.

 

grieving the loss of a friend

With sorrow I say goodbye to really the best friend in my life, other than my wife (and I have two great sisters). He was best in that he was a true friend through and through, though we kind of lost touch over the years. I was so honored to be best man at his wedding, and then he at mine. His wife Velda is special too, and all the family, a large one. I wish we would have lived closer to each other. All our lives end up being busy, and we lose track of good friends.

Ed, I can still hear your voice. You left a great legacy. Gone too soon. Will see you soon.

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Edwin R. Good’s obituary.

God weeps when we weep

In all their distress he too was distressed,
    and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
    he lifted them up and carried them
    all the days of old.

Isaiah 63:9

This present existence is broken. In time, and in some ways daily, we all experience it. But there are especially traumatic times when senseless tragedy hits someone, and some given family. This may seem an exception to the rule, but it happens all too often so that we realize that one can never know for sure what a day may bring.

God doesn’t seem to stop the bad things from happening, though surely God has on a number of occasions. Many of us have been in car accidents or what not when our lives could have easily been taken. But for some, the end comes, little ones left behind with a spouse, or whatever the circumstances may be. And they’re gone. Those affected are shattered and weep, and loved ones and friends weep with them. Where is God in all of this?

God weeps, too. God so to speak is shattered and weeps with us. He not only understands and empathizes, but he participates, more precisely is right in our midst, suffering what we’re suffering. God takes very seriously and holds as very precious the life and death of all, especially of his redeemed children.

We can be assured of this. Of God’s presence with us. Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb. And he weeps with us now.

We look forward to the day when all death will be gone. And all of this evil will be completely forgotten. Never to come to mind again.

Until then we press on in faith, trusting in our Father no matter what. And knowing our Father cares and grieves when we grieve. And is present to help us with all the help we need by his grace through his Spirit and through others. In and through Jesus.

when words fail

Sometimes the tragedies of life along with changes we would not ask for or want hit us in such a way that words fail us. We have nothing to say; we may only be able to grieve, remaining silent in our grief and sadness.  No words seem to be enough.

That is when it’s good to be silent, to listen so that maybe we could catch some thought that is fitting for the occasion. Being silent before God, praying in the Spirit with words, perhaps unknown words as well (see 1 Corinthians 14). But more than anything, being still.

Words will come, hopefully aptly spoken as apples of gold set in silver (Proverbs). But any words out of love will do.

We simply are being with others, somehow a part of their lives, even as they are a part of ours. Unlike others, we may have nothing fancy to say, perhaps nothing at all. But our hearts can say what our heads can’t. Words have their place, but they also have their limitations. The written word of God is not limited simply because it points us in the direction of God’s final Word, Jesus, which in and of itself, we can say himself, has no limitations, all of God’s good will being in that. The Word we need whether or not words fail us.

emotions

I was once told by a friend and mentor that I am an emotional cripple. That was a good number of years, even decades ago, and while I think my emotional life has come a long way, I still don’t see myself as completely whole in that area. Emotions such as joy and peace can act as buffers against the inevitable hard knocks and grind of this world. I have to admit that I struggle somewhat in trying to think through the issue of emotions.

I really do believe that emotions a part of our humanity from creation and are renewed in new creation in Jesus. Just the same, I can’t live by emotions, good or bad. They happen, they come and go. They are a byproduct, really, of living. We need to watch our lives, to guard our hearts, to hold on to faith and a good conscience.

I have wondered about Mother Teresa’s decades long suffering of “the dark night of the soul.” I have found in my own life that when I accept the dark times, even the times of inward oppression, it is often not long before those emotions and that experience is lifted.

I also wonder about what we might call a happified existence. Where everything is great all the time and there is much joy and laughter. I think we need more joy and laughter, to be sure, but I wonder how such an existence fits into the picture of the psalmists, who are often flailing away at life, even at God about life, sometimes even at God himself. Jesus himself, though a person of joy and peace, was also a man of sorrows and acquainted with suffering, or grief.

We need the presence of God through Christ by the Spirit. And that will help us. But perhaps the experience of darkness in this life helps us as well, in ways which are difficult, but in the way of following Jesus, the way of the cross. We have to learn to live with pain, with suffering, and to do so in the meekness and love of our Lord.

And so we go on, regardless of what we are experiencing inwardly, together in Jesus for the world.

the tragedy at Aurora

We are in deep sorrow, with heavy hearts over the tragedy at Aurora in which twelve people were taken from this life by a senseless act, and others injured. Of course evil acts happen daily on this planet. And hearts are broken over unexpected death. We live in a tenuous existence with no certainty from one day to the next what might happen.

Hopefully these incidents can change society for good. There is no way society can guarantee that such evil won’t take place. But we do well to try to decrease the possibility through considering and addressing a number of factors.

We live in a world that is wonderful, but that is also plagued with sin. Sin is that which is an offense against God and humans, against all that is good. At its heart sin is a violation of love.

We Christians, followers of Jesus are the ones in which love should be seen the brightest, a love that forgives and helps others through God to heal. Though there are certain wounds we are never meant to get over. We pray for the victim’s families, and for the murderer, that justice would be done, and that by grace he would find God’s deliverance and salvation in and through Jesus.

The danger as Jesus said, is that when lawlessness abounds, the love of many may grow cold. The key here is that law is enforced, but especially among Christians, the law of love, of loving one’s neighbor as ourselves, or as one who is like us. This means it is not everyone to and for themselves, but all of us for each other. “One for all, and all for one.”

While we live in this veil of tears, we do so as those who mourn with the blessing that in and through Jesus and God’s kingdom come in him we will indeed be comforted. And we seek to extend that comfort to others by being in their presence, listening to their stories, weeping with them, and praying for them.

We look forward to the day when God will wipe away all tears, and death will be no more. When all will be well in God’s love in and through Jesus. As we now seek to extend that faith, hope and love together through Jesus to our world, and to the world at large.