Last week I rec’d a prayer request via text message regarding the sudden and tragic death of a young man. I didn’t know him, but I know and love the person who was grieving his death and asking for prayers. We spent the day texting back and forth trying to make sense out of God calling home someone whose life was fully dedicated to serving Him before this young man’s ministry could even begin. In the midst of our conversation I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to tell her this: “Although God is the One who called this young man home He is grieving over his death too because His children are hurting and immersed in grief.” I believe the Holy Spirit talked through her as well when she responded with this; “It’s been raining all day here. I imagine the raindrops are tears from Heaven pouring down.”
When tragedy happens, we tend to blame God first. A few common questions people cry out when they’re in the pit of despair is “Where is God!?” or “Why did He let this happen!?” In Psalms 22, the man after God’s own heart even cried out “My God, My God, WHY have You forsaken me.” In the midst of life shattering grief we wonder how a God who says He loves us could also allow us to feel such crippling pain. And for some, grief will cripple them. The pain can be so overwhelming they’ll harden their hearts simply so they don’t have to feel anything anymore. Others will self-medicate or turn to another self-destructive behavior as a means of comfort that creates a false sense of numbness.
So where is God when tragedy happens? He’s right there in the face of that tragedy and He’s right with you at the moment your heart shatters. The second half of Deuteronomy 31:6 says “For the Lord my God personally goes ahead of me. He will neither fail me nor abandon me.” In Isaiah 43 God again promises He is with us always whether we go through deep waters or through the fire of oppression. Psalm 23 tells us that even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death He is with us-His rod and His staff comfort us. Where is God-He is everywhere, all the time. Even as His own son was beaten to the point of being unrecognizable, hung on a cross and stabbed in the side-God was there.
But why does He let tragedy happen? My human response would be “Ask Job. I’m sure he asked the same question when God allowed satan to take Job’s entire family and his prosperity only to prove Job’s faithfulness to Him.” But I’d prefer to answer in God’s words with Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT) “’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts’ says the lord. ‘And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” As crude is this may sound, God is God and He does what He wants even if it hurts us or we cannot comprehend what He’s doing. He does however promise to use everything, including tragedy for His glory and His purpose (Romans 8:28).
The same God who allowed His own son to be murdered, is the same God who wept when Lazarus died and is the same God who is grieving WITH you too. Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Bible yet one that may bring greater comfort than hearing the Lord is near to the broken hearted. Knowing God is with us isn’t always comforting, especially if we can’t feel His presence. But what a great comfort in knowing He is grieving with us. What a comfort to know it breaks His heart to break ours.
There are no right words to say when someone is in the midst of grief. We offer, “I’m sorry for your loss” or send a sympathy card. You can try to hold them tightly until they don’t hurt anymore but even that doesn’t truly take the pain away. The only true healing comes from Jesus Himself. The same One Who breaks our hearts is the same One Who can take each shard of brokenness and piece it back together making our hearts whole again. In Psalm 147:3 God promises to heal the brokenhearted and bind up all their wounds. The word bind in Hebrew is chabash, which means to bind, bind on or bind up. In exploring the thesaurus, another word for bind is to wrap or secure. God, with His love and sovereignty is the only One who can wrap up our broken hearts and make them secure again, secure in His word and in His love.
I want to close today’s blog with a few lyrics from Danny Gokey’s, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.” Ironically the story behind this song was based on a pastor wanting to see a heart surgery take place. In the midst of the surgery, after the heart had been repaired, they couldn’t restart it. The doctor uncharacteristically spoke to his patient and said, “We’ve fixed your heart, there’s nothing wrong with it. We just need you to tell your heart to beat again.” Jesus, the Great Physician will fix our broken hearts too when we come into agreement with Him and tell our hearts to beat again.
Like you’ve never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to be
“Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again”
May God’s loving grace and mercy fall on those who read this and are in a time of loss and grief. As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3; “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” My prayer for you is that God turns your mourning into dancing and you see God’s goodness prevail through the darkest storm I pray you will ever face. To the family who lost their son and their church congregation who was present with them when their lives were forever changed, this was my prayer to our Abba: “Lord, let even his death be a mighty miracle and testimony for Your glory. Show them, show everyone who knew him and was touched by His life how this tragedy will be used for Your glory. Let not his life nor his death be in vain.”