I’ve been talking to a guy who recently experienced a significant loss in his life. A close family member died at a very young age. He’s struggling coming to terms with his loss, his sense of powerlessness when it comes to death, and questions about God’s involvement with this death. He’s convinced that God is testing him to see how much pain and discomfort he can tolerate.
I’ve struggled with knowing how to respond to his questions and his pain. I don’t share his beliefs about God pushing him to the limit, but I’m taking it slow as far as challenging his assumptions. If I were in his shoes, I have no idea how I might struggle with my faith. Pain has a way of distorting our thinking when it’s raw and fiery.
I have to admit that I was a bit relieved when our last conversation ended–relieved that once we parted I could go back to the comfort of being insulated from first-hand pain. I returned to the safety of my own theology. While I genuinely hurt for him, I needed to create emotional and theological space.
I noticed some weariness in my soul as he left. I was thankful for the distance.
That all changed the next afternoon. While relaxing after Sunday church, I got a phone call from our oldest son. I could tell immediately something was not right. His got straight to the point. “Something bad happened. We lost Juan. He’s no longer with us,” he said.
Juan was one of my son’s best friends. Just two weeks earlier, Juan was in our home as he served as a groomsman in my son’s wedding. We all immediately fell in love with him. We instantly recognized the qualities and personality strengths in Juan that our son had told us so much about. We celebrated and laughed with Juan. His smile exuded the generous spirit he possessed.
And now, just as suddenly, he was gone. A freak car accident–one that seems so random and senseless–claimed his life.
I grieve for my own sense of loss, even though I only got to meet Juan briefly. But much more, I grieve for my son and his new wife. They lost a dear, dear friend. The impact and implications of their loss is only just beginning to hit them. There will be layers that will unfold over time.
Hearing the pain in my son’s voice over the phone was nearly unbearable. It still torments me.
The wrestling of questions that my friend expressed are now my own.
I find myself resonating with Mary and Martha as they conversed with Jesus after their brother, Lazarus, died. The first thing out of their mouths was, “Lord if You had been here, our brother would not have died.”
My version is, “I know you care Jesus, but couldn’t you have prevented that accident? Would it have really been that difficult to alter Juan’s timing just a few seconds so that he could still be with us? So my son and his wife (and all of Juan’s family and friends) wouldn’t be suffering now? And what about my friend’s daughter? You could have kept her alive, too.”
At this point, I join with my son in saying, “It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t make sense.”
I do find some comfort and strength in Jesus’ response to Mary and Martha. “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus emphasized to the grieving sisters that this resurrection isn’t some far-off idea. He is the resurrection and the life right now, in the present moment.
While that encourages me, I am a bit envious of the sisters’ experience. Jesus acted right then and there in bringing Lazarus back to life. They got immediate relief.
We’re left to wait and to struggle with our faith and what it means for us that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, now, while we still have funerals to go to. While we have empty places in our lives. While we have children who are experiencing immense pain.